We had longed to visit Dubai and were breathtakingly excited to be spending 1 week there. We had been told by other travellers there was plenty to do and the informers were right. There simply was not enough time, especially when the world’s largest shopping mall (based on total area) was located a mere few train stops from our hotel.
Thus started our 3-day love affair with Dubai Mall. The ultimate family travel destination. Every week Dubai Mall attracts more than 750,000 visitors. In 2012, Dubai Mall continued to hold title of world's most-visited shopping and leisure destination, attracting more than 65 million visitors. That is more than New York City and Los Angeles. Wow!
With more then 1,200 stores it also boasts a 250-room luxury hotel, 22 cinema screens, 120 restaurants and cafes, over 14,000 parking spaces across 3 car parks, with valet services and a car locator ticketing system.
Those numbers might be impressive, but I’m sure you and your family will love these 8 things and may end up spending as much time there as we did, or even more.
Adult – AED 95
Child – AED 140 (4 – 16)
Toddler – AED 95 ( 2 & 3)
Infant – Free (under 2)
Total for our family of 4 = AED 425 / AUD $130
Quite possibly one of the happiest places on earth for kids. From the first time we visited in Kuala Lumpur we knew the kids would be yearning to experience their Dubai incarnation.
We spent all day from 11am – 4pm in its magical, pint-sized city. While Caius was not old enough to try some of the activities, most of the staff were happy to have him tag along with his bigger sister.
The kids were given the opportunity to become pilots, doctors, race car drivers, shop attendants, chefs, painters and more. Tip: there’s a quiet, secluded parents lounge on the 2nd floor if the kids are old enough to scoot around by themselves.
Adult – combo ticket – AED 70
Child – combo ticket – AED 55 ( 3 – 12)
Total for our family of 4 = AED 250 / AUD $75
In the heart of Dubai Mall is the world’s largest acrylic sheet at 32.88 metres wide x 8.3 metres high x 750 mm thick and weighing 245 tons. It houses the Dubai Aquarium.
Located upstairs, the Underwater Zoo is where you can find playful penguins, painting otters, interesting insects and even a jungle rope bridge. Downstairs is the aquarium which consists of only one arched tunnel, but it provides eye-level access to sharks and stingrays and countless marine life.
Power Pass – all day - AED 175
Family Pass – 4x all day – AED 600
You can also get individual tickets for rides and purchase game cards for play time.
Near KidZania is this Timezone cross Times Square Theme Park. It’s every child’s dream: two floors of theme park rides and endless rows of arcade games. We used an all day pass to spend on the rides, plus they offer a supervised, giant indoor playground that you can leave the kids in for an hour while you go play games.
After our fill of games we tried a few rides, including the scream-inducing snowboard half-pipe simulator, then grabbed the kids and finished our session playing air hockey and car racing games. A great way to cool down on a hot day for a few hours or more.
2 hour session – AED 55 / Spectating – AED 15
Child – AED 25 (under 100cm)
Penguin Pals – AED 30 per hour
The perfect activity for hot Dubai. The best part were little Penguin Pals that help the inexperienced young skate by themselves. There are friendly staff to help every step of the way and the sessions are just long enough for you to have plenty of fun before you run out of steam.
5) Dubai Fountains
Located immediately outside the mall we found something much like the KLCC Fountain show. Over a crystal clear man-made lake with the world’s tallest building as the background, starts the mesmerising Dubai Fountain Show. There are 2 shows during the day, but the evening shows are much better with the synchronised lights. They run every half hour for about ten minutes. The kids were enthralled by the dancing water. Insider’s tip: it gets super busy so arrive at least 15 minutes early to secure a good vantage point.
About AED35 per ticket, no discounted children’s prices
Who doesn’t love a movie on a rainy day? Or in Dubai’s case, on a 50°C day. We took the kids to see a thanksgiving movie, Free Birds. The cinema was modern and a similar high standard as we came to expect from rest of Dubai. There are more movies than you can poke a stick at, so you’re bound to find something you’ll enjoy.
What’s the max on your credit card?
You can imagine the amount of time I spent shopping here. Actually I only made it around to the top floor as I was searching for a dress for my brother’s upcoming wedding. I found a perfect one, of course. Dubai’s prices are not cheap, but they sure have variety and style.
When the world’s largest sweet shop "Candylicious" spans over 10,000 sq ft (930 m2) you can be guaranteed there will be plenty of food to be found.
Josh’s favourite Cheesecake Factory dished up the same American-size portions and free soft drink refills. There are also two vast food courts to choose from. We went to one and it was simply immense, with more choice then you would care to have. From Indian cuisine to a restaurant dedicated to New York-inspired fries.
You’ll even find an indoor playground in the food court for quiet, relaxed parent-friendly dining if you wish.
I’m sure given more than 3 days you could easily make this list into 10, 20 or even 50 things to do. But after so long travelling around the world without malls, 3 days was enough for us and we were ready to move onto other Dubai activities, like desert safaris and waterslides. But if there was only one mall that you would visit in your lifetime, I’d put my vote in for this one.