Our hotel, Movenpick, was about 45 minutes from Dubai Mall (including walking time and train). The train was a little more then AUD$1 per ride with both kids free. You can buy a train pass to put money on for easy use. It cost AED6 (AUD $2). Just be careful because unlike the London Oyster card you can’t return the card and unless the value is over AED5 you can’t get a refund for the amount on there either. The trick is to top up more than enough credit so you can get it all back. It doesn’t make sense to me, but let’s continue.
The train system is awesome in Dubai. It’s clean and very fast. There are not a lot of chairs, but everything is so close that it hardly seems to be an issue.
The walk from the station to the mall is all under covered and air-conditioned. There are travelators along the walkway as it’s a bit of a trek.
The world’s largest mall is, well, large. Every week Dubai Mall attracts more than 750,000 visitors. In 2012, Dubai Mall drew in more than 65 million visitors. To keep that in proportion, there are just over 23 million people living in Australia. With more than 1,200 stores it also boasts a 250-room luxury hotel, 22 cinema screens and 120 restaurants. Getting your bearings is hard at first, with its multiple levels and endless rows of shops, but the signage is pretty good. It still took awhile to make our way to our first stop, as it really is immense.
Water: Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo
In the heart of Dubai Mall is the world’s largest piece of acrylic at 32.8 metres wide by 8.3 metres high, 750 mm thick and weighing 245 tons. It houses the 10 million litre Dubai Aquarium tank.
On the bottom level of the shopping centre is the main Guinness World Record-awarded aquarium tank. You can see it from 3 levels of the mall for free. Or purchase a ticket to walk through the 48-metre tunnel for the full panoramic experience and see the 140 different species of aquatic life, plus the largest collection of Sand Tiger Sharks.
The aquarium is pretty impressive, although fairly short by comparison to international standards. I’m not sure I would pay again to walk through when you can get a similar experience watching it for free from the outside. But the photo ops abound inside.
Up one level from the Aquarium is the Underwater Zoo, which is really worth the entrance fee. The kids loved this place. It takes you on an educational journey between Rainforest, Rocky Shore and Living Ocean. We were impressed with the display of crocodiles, spider crabs, jellyfish, lionfish, penguins and otters. You can even stand on top of the actual tank and look right down into it. Scary!
Caius has a treasured stuffed toy penguin and wanted to watch the penguins all day. He loved feeding time as one by one they lined up like soldiers for a yummy fish and then dove in the water. All like clockwork.
Mia fell in love with the Otters who, as part of their enrichment program, painted art on an easel and she got to choose the colours. She proudly told me that when she grows up she wants to teach Otters to paint. So cute!
In the upper floor of the Underwater Zoo is a section featuring insects and creepy crawlies, as well as a rope bridge across the exhibits below.
The water portion of Dubai Mall was a real hit with kids and adults alike.
Adult – combo ticket – AED 70
Child – combo ticket – AED 55 ( 3 - 12)
Total for our family of 4 = AED 250 / AUD $75
Ice: Dubai Ice Rink
The perfect activity for perpetually hot Dubai is this Olympic-size ice skating rink in the middle of the mall. They operate several sessions each day and staff monitoring the ice help beginners get started.
Both my kids were whisked away by the friendly team to learn to skate. The best part was the little Penguin Pals you can hire so that the kids can skate by themselves.
I enjoy ice-skating and so hit the ice with my little ones. My 4-year-old didn’t want me anywhere near her because apparently I was the cause of her falling over, but my 3-year-old didn’t want to let go of me. Josh decided to sit this out; he figured being 6’9” made for a long (and painful) fall to the ground. So he captured some snaps from the sidelines.
A 2-hour session will set you back:
Spectating – AED 15
Child – AED 25 (under 100cm)
Penguin Pals – AED 30 per hour
If your kids are really little you can even hire special skates that go on top the kids shoes. We tried them out, but Caius did better in the proper boot-style skates.
This was only the kids second time skating after our first being on our Mediterranean cruise a couple months ago, and they both asked to go back daily.
Before we finished our first day in the Dubai Mall, we headed to Josh’s favourite restaurant. Directly across from the Aquarium and next door to the obscenely large Candylicious is the iconic Cheesecake Factory. With American serving sizes we had enough food to take home for dinner that night as well.
It was clear we hardly cracked the surface of Dubai Mall and we would need another few days to, maybe not conquer it, but to at least see the things we wanted to. We went back two more days. Once for KidZania and once for Sega Republic, come read!
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