Full disclosure: I’ve only been to Dubai pre-kids and when my first child was still in the womb. But we lived in Abu Dhabi for two years and did lots of family friendly things!
Where to Stay
Any reputable hotel will treat you like gold. We’ve enjoyed the Sofitel on Jumeriah Beach Road, as it’s as close to a walkable neighborhood as you’re going to get. Further into the center of Dubai, we love the Palace Old Town. It is very close to the Dubai Mall, Burj Khalifa, souk, and Dubai Fountains.
And somewhere in the middle, the 3 hotels at Madinat Jumeirah are great. They also provide a bit of a village to walk around with views of Burj al Arab. We stayed at the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, and while a bit isolated out on Palm Jumeirah, the service was great and lots of families around with a calm beach area and restaurants onsite (book ahead as they don’t seem to hold spots for hotel guests per se!). Finally, for a bit of a desert experience, spend time at the Bab al Shams resort — lots of activities related to the sandy surroundings and other onsite activities since it’s a bit remote.
The best “places” seem to be Dubai Mall and Mall of Emirates food courts, just given the many choices! But there are also lots of chains you find in the US and UK there. The brunch experience on Fridays is pretty spectacular — there are so many to choose from! Our favorite was probably at the Al Qasr Hotel in Madinat Jumeirah. It had a lot of high quality menu items.
Favorite Kid-Friendly Things To Do
Atlantis Waterpark and Wild Wadi Waterpark are great ways to stay cool — lots of families about. Dubai Mall offers the gateway up the Burj Khalifa, and Mall of the Emirates provides indoor skiing at Ski Dubai. It wasn’t quite open when we were there, but would be interested to take our kids to the Warner Brothers theme park. A desert safari is a must do as well, though better for older kids. Old Dubai offers lots of sights, sounds, and smells (spice souk, gold souk, and more). The Dubai Museum is small but gives a hint at what life was like before the city grew into what it is today.
Tips and Advice
In the past five years, the UAE has made huge strides. Car seats were long viewed as optional. But laws are evolving — whereby now any child under 4 must be in a child safety seat or the drivers face a fine. Since we lived in the UAE, most friends with children had nannies as that’s the cheapest and most convenient child care option. It isn’t legal to hire them on the side, so recommend going through the hotel to find care.
Helpful Local Apps
Careem is a localized/regional version of Uber, though Uber still works here. However, both are more expensive than the government-backed, metered taxis which your hotel can get for you or which you can find lined up at major malls and attractions.
Read more about our experiences in Dubai here.