Abu Dhabi is probably best known for its skyscrapers and luxury resorts, so how does that work for a family holiday? Baby mani-pedis? Sliding down the Etihad Towers? Your six-year-old probably isn’t begging for a spa day, but don’t worry – if you’re wondering what to do in Abu Dhabi with kids you’re likely to be pleasantly surprised. Youngsters visiting the city will find there are actually lots for them to do; things that won’t just keep them busy, but give them some really special lifelong memories.
Things to do
Thrills, spills and automobiles – theme parks are surely the ultimate kids’ day out. Thankfully, like any self-respecting family-friendly destination, Abu Dhabi has several.
Warner Bros World
A relatively new addition, Warner Bros World reportedly cost $1 billion to build, and walking around the park it doesn’t seem too surprising. There’s around state-of-the-art rides here, spread over six different themed worlds. A few of the rides have a height restriction (1.1m), but there’s nothing too hardcore here, making it a good choice for kids of all ages. It’s also indoors and air conditioned – exactly what you want when the desert climate picks up.
It may sound like a posh car showroom, but Ferrari World is actually home to Formula Rossa, the world’s fastest roller coaster. If that doesn’t float the kids’ boats there are plenty of other rollercoasters and racing activities on offer – everything from child-size F1 cars to remote-controlled boats. While there are a few attractions for little ones, including a playground and soft play area, this park is really geared more towards older kids.
No one is going to complain about getting wet in the Abu Dhabi heat – making a trip to Yas Waterworld a sure crowd pleaser. There are more than 40 attractions here, with a nice mix for both younger and older kids. Load up on the sunscreen then dive in and explore the rollercoasters, watercoasters, lazy river, wave pool, water slides and a 5d cinema.
It might be off the tourist track, but Wadi Adventure is one of the best things to do in Abu Dhabi with kids who are a little bit older. Located 90 minutes from Abu Dhabi centre, this watersports centre is perfect for daredevil teens. The man-made whitewater rapids offer thrills galore in the form of rafting and kayaking, and kids can also try their hand at surfing and wakeboarding, as can their parents…
Holidays should always be memorable (for the right reasons of course). Here’s our pick of unique Abu Dhabi activities that are great for kids and adults alike.
Kayaking in the Eastern Mangroves
Kayak through the city’s mangrove forests for a while and you almost forget you’re in Abu Dhabi. It’s a great chance to breathe some fresh air and also do a bit of wildlife watching; these natural mangroves are home to a surprising amount of animals, including dolphins, flamingos, heron, foxes and blue and purple crabs. Operators like Sea Hawk and Noukhada offer several trips a day, with single and double kayaks available. Kids as young as three can take part, though we’re guessing you’ll be doing most of the work.
What’s an Abu Dhabi holiday without a visit to the desert? Abu’s side of the desert is home to the largest sand dunes in the UAE – making it perfect for dune bashing, sandboarding and, importantly, impressive family photos. The day safari from Arabian Nights Village resort is a solid choice – it includes plenty of family-friendly activities including camel riding, henna painting, sand surfing and, of course, dune bashing. There’s a few pick up/drop off points in the city, and kids under 10 are free.
Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital
One of the more unusual things to do in Abu Dhabi with kids, a visit to The Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital is a great way for youngsters to learn more about local traditions. As the UAE’s national bird, falcons are an incredibly important part of emirati culture. Book a tour of the world’s largest hospital devoted to the birds and kids will have the chance to watch them in an aviary, see how they’re given ‘pedicures’ and – if they’re feeling brave enough – have one sit on their arm.
What better way to have the kids let off some steam (and tire them out) than an afternoon of sports? These energetic activities are far from ordinary, though – this is Abu Dhabi after all.
Located at Marina Mall, Bounce is a popular spot in Abu Dhabi with kids of all ages. Far from being just trampolines, there’s a zipline, basketball hoops, speed slide and freefall attraction, as well as the much-loved freestyle zone and free jump arena. Children need to be able to walk unassisted before they can get bouncing.
Kids as young as four can unleash their inner Spider-Man at Clymb. There are five climbing walls varying in height from 9 feet to 141 feet; the tallest indoor climbing wall in the world (probably not one for the 4-year-olds). The real gem here though is the skydiving. Kids aged three and up can give it a go in the indoor flight chamber – don’t pretend you don’t want to try it too…
This sports resort, complete with its own hotel, offers a variety of energy-burning activities to kids of all ages. From wakeboarding and swimming to archery and paint-balling, there’s plenty to try at Al Forsan. Those aged eight and over can also whizz around the Kids Karting track – eat your heart out Formula 1.
Animals & wildlife
If your kids are big animal lovers, you’re in luck! Abu Dhabi has several attractions perfect for youngsters who prefer a more gentle activity.
Al Ain Zoo
It may be quite far from the city centre, but out of Abu Dhabi’s two zoos, Al Ain is the best. The enclosures are bigger, there’s a 217-hectare safari and the sustainability-focused Sheikh Zayed Desert Learning Centre. It’s also surprisingly cheap – tickets are 30 AED for adults (£6/$8) and 10 AED for kids (£2/$3). The animals housed here range from the local Arabian Oryx to the more exotic tigers, lions, gorillas and crocodiles.
Arabian Wildlife Park
For a more authentic animal-watching experience, head to the Arabian Wildlife Park on Sir Bani Yas Island. This nature reserve is home to more than 10,000 wild animals, including cheetahs, giraffes, gazelles, oryxes, and emus. Do your best David Attenborough impression from the viewing platform, or book a 90-minute safari to get a closer view of the action.
No doubt about it, a day at one of Abu Dhabi’s pristine beaches should definitely be on your itinerary. Don’t fret if your hotel doesn’t have a private beach – there are several family-friendly public stretches of sand to choose from.
Saadiyat Public Beach
Saadiyat Public Beach is the prettiest; pay a small entrance fee and enjoy the spotless white sand. Umbrellas and loungers are available to rent, though you need to get here early to nab those.
The Corniche Public beach
The Corniche Public beach is split into sections, with two for families, and has plenty of amenities including playgrounds, cafes and shops. Kids can also burn off some energy at the free volleyball courts and football pitches. There’s a small entrance fee for adults and kids over five.
Al Bateen Beach
Al Bateen Beach is another good choice for families; with its calm waters and kids’ play park. If you’re up for a bit more than sunbathing you can try your hand at kayaking, paddleboarding or even jet skiing here too.
Heading to Abu Dhabi with kids doesn’t mean sacrificing your dream of a luxury resort or paying a small fortune for somewhere child-friendly. There are a number of decent options to suit most budgets – here’s our pick:
Saadiyat Rotana Resort & Villas
Saadiyat Rotana gives you the best of both worlds; a taste of the good life with plenty for kids to do. The five-star resort has its own kids club, complete with splash pool, lazy river, water slides, cinema and entertainment, and there’s also the outdoor pool, mini golf and private beach to enjoy. Prices start from around 850 AED (£180/$231)
Conveniently located on Yas Island, a stay at Staybridge Suites means you’re close to all the theme parks, as well as the marina and Yas Mall. These apartment-style suites come with their own kitchen area – perfect for picky little eaters, and there’s also a kids’ club, swimming pool and playground. Prices start from around 400 AED (£84/$109).
Premier Inn Abu Dhabi Capital Centre
Who says you can’t do Abu Dhabi on a budget? Rooms at this familiar chain start at just 185 AED (£28/$37). The family rooms at Premier Inn Capital Centre are a good size, with two kids under 15 staying free. There’s a kids’ pool, and the onsite restaurant Nuevo is relaxed and offers the usual Premier Inn fare.
Not sure whether Abu Dhabi or Dubai will be the right choice for you? Take a look at our battle of the emirates to find out which came out tops.
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