In a blink of the eye, the biggest, largest, tallest have risen out of Dubai’s golden sands. Overnight, this Gulf oasis now glimmers with vertical cities, palaces in the sky, gold walls, 24-carat gold shoes, and ATM’s that dispenses gold bars. Bedouin tales from the ancestor Bani Yas tribe, couldn’t have predicted this kind of magic that has sprung out of this Arabian desert. It all awaits you as you come to visit, check out our top things to do in Dubai!
In 1991, Dubai had one sky rise. Today over 900. Striking oil in 1966 made it possible for Dubai’s ruler, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, to build a city like no other in the world. One of seven Emirates in the UAE (United Arab Emirates), Dubai has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world.
Located on the east coast of the Arabian Peninsula, in the southwest corner of the Arabian Gulf, you can see some of Dubai’s landmarks from outer space, with a skyline of soaring skyscrapers that bedazzle visitors from around the world.
Within a day’s reach, you can visit sandy beaches, red sand dunes, majestic mountains, lush tropical gardens. From dune bashing to designer shopping, there’s a kaleidoscope of activities in this vibrant coastal city. Everything here is “over-the-top” and you can be guaranteed your days will be sunny with year round sunshine! Here’s our “shortlist” of..
Things to Do in Dubai?
- Burj Khalifa -The best way to start your Dubai sightseeing is to go to the observation deck on the 124th floor for a 360 degree orientation of Dubai. Get ready to enter the record books! You’ll be riding 1,654 ft. on the world’s tallest service elevator. At 2,716.5 feet and 160 stories, the Burj Khalifa skyscraper holds many world records including the world’s tallest man-made, freestanding structure and building. For tickets to the top, visit: www.atthetop.ae
- Dubai Mall – At the base of Burj Khalifa, you will definitely drop after you shop the world’s largest mall with 1,200 boutiques! After walking through 440,000 sq. ft. with the largest collection of fashion brands in the world, and if you have the energy, take a spin at the indoor ice skating rink or view marine life in the indoor aquarium. If you prefer skiing, head to the Mall of Emirates which has an indoor ski resort – largest in the Middle East.
- Dubai Fountains – The Dubai Fountains surge up to 500 ft in the air and dance to Arab, World, and Classical music at the largest fountain show in the world. Click here to watch these fountains dance!
- Burj Al Arab – The world’s only “7 Star luxury hotel” unfurled its sail-shaped exterior when it opened just before January 2000. Dubai’s iconic landmark stands on its own man-made island at 1,000 ft. We were entranced on a tour that took us through a lobby with a ~500 foot atrium and two story aquarium. Click here to view the several images we captured at this Arabian wonder! Resembling a traditional Arab boat, the dhow, it looks like it’s sailing off the coast of Dubai. Architect Tom Wright is the mastermind behind the world’s 4th tallest hotel with 28 floors and 202 deluxe suites. The Royal Suite price tag is ~$20,000 per night. Many marriage proposals take place in its restaurants – Al Mahara (“Oyster”), with a submarine-like entrance to dining area surrounded by a floor-to-ceiling seawater aquarium, and the Al Muntaha (“Highest” or “Ultimate”), on the upper floors of the hotel offers panoramic views of the Gulf, The Palm and The World Islands.
- Dubai Water Parks – There are several water parks in Dubai, like Wild Wadi and Atlantis. We went to Aquaventure at Atlantis, The Palm to slide down the “Leap of Faith”. Click here to watch as we slide down 9 stories in 1 second, then speed through tank surrounded by sharks and rays. The newest thrill is at the Tower of Poseidon where you can test your courage sliding down 120 foot slide – a World Breaking Ride.
- Skydive Dubai – If you want the best panoramic aerial view of The Palm, and The World Islands, head to Skydive Dubai and sign up for a tandem skydive directly over The Palm, and on a clear day see The World Islands in the distance. The Palm is one of Dubai’s daring architectural feats and is one of the three largest artificial islands in the world. Click here to see what happens as we jump out over The Palm!
- Seawings Flight over Dubai – Another option is to fly on Seawings seaplane and see Dubai from every angle – above the water, along the Arabian coast and through the heart of this cosmopolitan. Everyone has the “best seat” on the flight with a window that peers out to the world famous landmarks and dramatic Dubai skyline. Book your flight at: email@example.com
No list of “Things to do in Dubai” would be complete without visiting the grand Old Dubai!
- Jumeirah Mosque – Be sure to visit the Jumeirah Mosque, the UAE’s most important religious site, with extraordinary architecture. Wear a veil and cover up to show respect.
- Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Center for Cultural for Understanding – His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai and Prime Minister of the UAE, shares “Dubai is a uniquely modern and cosmopolitan city and the United Arab Emirates is home for families from all over the world, each with their own distinctive culture. Expatriates and UAE nationals are neighbours; however they can also be strangers.” In an effort to better understand each other, he founded this center to introduce the traditions and customs of the UAE.
- Dubai Women’s Museum –a cultural initiative designed to celebrate and explore the lives of women in the UAE. Unique to the Gulf and The UAE, this museum highlights women’s achievements and aims to discover the lives of UAE society through UAE women past and present.
- Bastakiya – Visit the historical area next to Dubai Creek in Old Dubai, where you can tour ancient houses and the last wind tower (early form of AC) quarter left on the Arab side of the Gulf. In 1833, this harbor was a trading center for center for the fishing, pearling and sea trade and developed into an important port by the 20th century. Watch the dhows, old Arab wooden boats, sail down the waterway. Spend at least an hour at the Dubai Museum, where you can learn about Dubai’s pre-oil boom and get insights into Emiratis cultural heritage and how they lived just decades ago. If you’re hungry, you can stop for a Camel Burger at a local café.
- Gold Souk – We went window shopping to one of the largest gold markets in the world with 300 jewelry shops and admired the intricately designs. Venture into the hidden alleyways where there are smaller shops with pointed toe shoes, sequined robes, Aladdin lamps, and find a treasured souvenir. On the Deira side of the creek, the souk (market in Arabic), was the largest on the coast.
- Spice Souk – The lanes get narrower as you go into the bustling spice souk and start to smell the fragrance of incense, and sacks of Middle East spices like cardamom, cinnamon and cloves. Here we bought some dried fruit and nuts to snack on as we continued our Dubai discoveries.
- Desert Safari and Sundowner Dune Dinner – You can’t leave Dubai, without experiencing a Desert Safari. Not far from the border of Oman, near the Western Hajjar Mountains our convoy of 4X4’s rode a roller coaster of red sand dunes as we dune bashed to a village site. Click here for an adrenaline rush! After this thrilling ride, a magical evening awaited us as we rode camels, and learned some of the traditional ways of the Emirati people – preparing tea, riding camels, dressing like a Bedouin, getting henna design on your feet or hands, feasting on traditional dishes – hummus, tabouli, bbq, and testing out the hubbllee bubbblee – the shisha (the famous Arabic water pipe) with some Arabic coffee (gahwa) along with fresh sweet dates. Before returning to Dubai, we were entertained with a belly dance performance under a canopy of stars. Click here to see what happens on a Desert Safari.
How to Get to Dubai?
Emirates Airlines – our airlines of choice for this trip is Emirates Airlines. From the moment we booked our flight to our arrival in Dubai, we received excellent service and had a fabulous in-flight experience. If you want the “WOW” factor flying to Dubai, reserve a ticket with Emirates Airlines.
Where to Stay in Dubai?
Ritz-Carlton DIFC – located in the heart of the Dubai’s International Financial Center (DIFC), we stayed at the luxurious Ritz Carlton. This five-star hotel is just minutes from the Burj Khalifa, and about a 10-15 mins drive from the airport. Conveniently located on Sheikh Zayed Road, and near downtown attractions.
We loved our comfortable rooms – feather beds & Frette linens! Contemporary in French art deco style with floor-to-ceiling windows. The service is exceptional. There are two pools (indoor & outdoor), a fitness center & spa, and excellent dining options including the legendary New York eatery, Le Cirque for international cuisine. Don’t miss! Cake for delicious homemade desserts – pastries, cakes & cookies.
Where to Dine in Dubai?
- Le Cirque – for fine dining, book a reservation at this legendary New York eatery in the heart of Dubai, located in the Ritz-Carlton DIFC Hotel. The menu showcases delicious French dishes with an Italian flair, presented in a contemporary fashion. We savored the burrata with grilled peaches, and selected the seabass. Surrounded by beautiful art and a chic ambience, guests dine in style!
- Cake – after dining at Le Cirque, be sure to stop by at Cake for homemade desserts, located on the ground floor of the Ritz Carlton Dubai DIFC – open 24 hours daily! We especially enjoyed the date cake, and small bites of Middle Eastern desserts.
- Thiptara – Thiptara translates to “Magic on the Water” – aptly named for its location, a contemporary Thai Restaurant located at the Palace Downtown, right next to the lake at the base of the Burj Khalifa. Not only do you have front seats to the fountain show, but the Thai cuisine is delicious! We ordered a variety of dishes from phad thai to curry, and for dessert – mango sticky rice with coconut sauce. Elegant and romantic, but also a great restaurant for families. If it’s not too hot outside, ask to be seated outside, where you can dine al fresco next to the Dubai Fountains.
By: Patricia Stone, a travel writer and consultant for www.GlobalAdventuress.com
Travel Acknowledgements: We would like to thank the Ritz Carlton DIFC, Le Cirque, Cake, Thiptara, Seawings, Burj Khalifa, Burj Al Arab for hosting us during our stay. A special thanks to our driver and guide, Rashid and Gihan, of EET www.eet.ae , a leader in tour operations and travel management in the region who provided us with a private tour of Dubai. EET lives up to their motto “Always good Service, Always customer comes first.”
Also, we appreciate the support of our sponsors – GoPro, providing us with a Go Pro Hero3 to capture the video clips on YouTube, and DK Eyewitness Travel for providing us with a helpful Top 10 Dubai & Abu Dhabi Travel Guide. Opinions in this article are our own.