Are you looking for the best things to do in Dubai? In this guide we round up the best traditional, luxury and adventurous things to do in Dubai – including some great Dubai Hidden gems to create the ULTIMATE Dubai bucket list perfect for first time and repeat visitors.
Best Things to do in Dubai Bucket List
Visit the Burj Khalifa at sunrise
You can’t visit Dubai and not see the city from the Burj Khalifa’s 124th floor observation deck. From the super-fast lift that whisks you 452 metres into the sky in less than a minute, to the incredible views over Sheikh Zayed Road, the Dubai Fountains and the Palm, it’s one of the essential things to do in Dubai.
Tickets at sunset offer an even more magical experience, as you can see two sides to the city – the daytime buzz and the dramatic lights at night. But those sunset tickets come at a premium; almost twice the normal entry price. They’re also very popular, meaning that you’ll likely be sharing your experience with crowds of other people.
A little-known alternative to visiting at sunset is to visit the Burj Khalifa at sunrise. Available on Friday and Saturday mornings in winter, you’ll need to get up at an eye-wateringly early hour, but you’ll be rewarded with incredible night-into-day views plus a light breakfast for the same price as a normal daytime visit. The other benefit to visiting the Burj Khalifa observation deck at sunrise rather than sunset is that the early alarm call is much less appealing, so it’s likely that there’ll be far fewer people there. When I visited, we didn’t queue at all and were able to freely move around to take in the sights. Cheaper, fewer crowds and a free pastry at one of Dubai’s biggest attractions? Definitely a Dubai hidden gem
Advance booking of the Burj Khalifa is recommended. There are several ticket options depending on which levels you wish to visit:
Nominated by Helen on her Holidays .
For more tips on visiting the Burj Khalifa click here!
One of my favourite things to do at Dubai is to see the amazing Dubai Mall fountain show. The fountains were designed by the same people who did the Las Vegas Bellagio fountain shows and these are equally impressive. The fountain shows are in evening and over lunch depending on what day of the week you go will affect exact show times so be sure to check the website for times on your day of travel. For the current schedule check the Dubai Mall website.
The fountains dance to a range of music from classical Arabic to modern classics by artists such as Michael Jackson so there is always something different to see.
Watching the Dubai Mall Fountains can get extremely busy so if you want a good view away from the crowds we recommend heading to the Souq side rather than the mall side as it is much quieter.
As we travel with our toddler one of our favourite places to go on any vacation is an aquarium and in our opinion the Dubai Aquarium is one of the best in the world.
You can see one side of the aquarium tunnel from the mall but it is well worth the admission to actually go inside as the tunnel is only one small part of the aquarium. The aquarium is actually split over three floors of the impressive Dubai Mall – the tunnel being on the first and second floor and then up on the third floor is the Underwater zoo.
A visit to the Dubai Aquarium starts by walking through the tunnel which is the height of two of the floors in the mall and is one of the most impressive aquarium tunnels I have ever seen. After you have finished in the tunnel you head upstairs where there are more exhibits include a giant crocodile, penguin and other usual exhibits. Depending on what ticket you have purchased there are also options for doing behind the scenes tours which we have done previously and throughly recommend. For full ticket options CLICK HERE.
If you are travelling to Dubai with toddlers, kids or even just as adults especially if you are looking for something indoors to do in Dubai then I heartily recommend adding the Dubai Aquarium to your Dubai itinerary.
Have High Tea At the Burj Khalifa
Dubai is a city of opulence and excess and what better way to celebrate that than atop the tallest building in the world for a high tea.
High tea at the Burj Khalifa is one of those experiences you have to do once in your life. I decided to go to high tea at the Burj because it was something I had wanted to do. The cost of the high tea was $150 USD which is expensive but the cost to go to the top of the Burj is $50 USD.
I spent three hours atop the Burj sipping on Champagne (yes there is alcohol there), and eating tasty morsels. The high tea comes in three courses – finger sandwiches, savouries, and then desserts. Plus they have a delicious menu of mocktails you can try and a full coffee menu along with the teas.
The views from the top are amazing and I think the best view is actually from the toilets! I enjoyed spending a few hours there to just take in the views and enjoy a bit of pampering.
Nominated by Nicole La Barge
When you mention Dubai, everyone thinks Burj al Arab, Burj Khalifa and modern skyscrapers. We forget how different Dubai was only a few decades ago. Its development began with the discovery of oil in 1966. Sheikh Zayed’s vision was to use oil wealth to reinvent this old trading port in an unrecognisably modern style. Shortly after that, the city was home to a quarter of all the world’s tower cranes with a rate and scope of development smashing more records than we can imagine. Dubai Museum focuses on the picture before all that and the very earliest stages of the modern era The museum itself is surprisingly old fashioned and unsophisticated. It comes as a welcome relief from the modern tinsel city. It projects a rich model of the old settlement, the traditional economies of coastal desert life and the impact of oil and modern communications on the shape of the city.
Dubai Museum is located in Al Fahidi Fort, from 1787 which is apparently the oldest building in Dubai. Al Fahidi Fort is square and has three towers and, as we all learnt, it is built from coral. In the courtyard, you will find boats used by fishermen and pearl divers. In the corner of the yard, stands a typical summer house, with its wind tower to catch whatever breeze was available to ease the burning heat. And it works. If you stand underneath it, you can feel the natural ventilation – it’s very smart.
The Museum is open from Saturday to Thursday between 8:30 until 20:30. On Fridays, from 14:30 to 20:30.
We loved Dubai Museum it was fun for the kids and educational for all of us.
Nominated by The Travelling Twins
Visit a Souq
It’s easy to get caught up in the glitz and glamour that seems to be around every corner in Dubai. If you’re looking to step away from the designer handbags and diamond studded abayas, look no farther than the local souks. After living in the Middle East for several years, souks are always my favorite way to get out, explore and connect with the locals.
The best place in Dubai to hit several souks is to go to the Deira section of town. Here you will find the gold souk, spice souk, textile souk, and perfume souk, all close together. Once you arrive, your senses will be enchanted by the smells, sights and sounds of the souk. Go in and talk to the shopkeepers, as most will be incredibly friendly. Always, always ask for a better deal and don’t be afraid to keep haggling or walk away. Beware if they offer you tea and you accept, because that’s as good as a handshake accepting their deal in Arab culture! If you want to hit the souks when they’re the least crowded, head there mid afternoon, because by evening everything will be incredibly crowded.
We always take our kids with us when we explore Arab souks because our kids are just as fascinated by the shopkeepers as the shopkeepers are with them.
Note: There is a souk at the Dubai Mall but this is just for tourists and the prices are considerably higher than you’ll find at the local souks. Besides, going to a souk is all about the experience, not just what you buy!
Nominated by Bring the Kids
Crossing Dubai Creek on a traditional boat
The Dubai Creek separates the two traditional parts of Dubai, Bur Dubai and Deira. Even though the modern Dubai has long outgrown the two older parts of the town, Bur Dubai and Deira are still on most tourists’ bucket lists. Especially the area of Deira is still very different from the modern, glamorous Dubai that we see on post cards. This is the perfect area to get a glimpse into what life used to be in Dubai a few decades ago. Here you can take a stroll over the gold souq and the spice souq before heading over to Dubai Creek. The area of Deira is also a great area to stay in Dubai if you are looking for budget accommodation or hotels close to the airport.
Despite the excitement of the traditional markets in Dubai, my number one item for every Dubai bucket list is still the crossing of Dubai Creek on a traditional local boat. Numerous small boats, called abras, are crossing the creek at all times. Some of them carry cargo from Bur Dubai to Deira or vice versa, some of them carry passengers. The passenger boats are operated by the Dubai transport authority RTA and a single ride costs 1 Dirham. That is right – about 0.3 USD for a Dubai bucket list item and an amazing experience.
After visiting the souqs of Deira, head down to the Deira Old Souq Abra Station and cross the Creek to Bur Dubai Abra Station. The stations are clearly marked and it is easy to find the correct route. Just keep in mind to bring exact change, as this will make the boarding process easier.
Nominated by 197 Travel Stamps
Dubai Desert Safari
A visit to Dubai would not be complete without a desert camel safari. It is easy to forget, especially when staying in a mega-wealthy city like Dubai, some of the traditions of the nomadic Bedouin people that lived there. Your first time in Dubai might be overwhelming being completely surrounded by man-made giants and crazy extravagant things. Take a moment to enjoy the simple things again.
Enjoy a beautiful sunset while slowly making your way across the Dubai dunes on your camel. Learn why the Bedouin people trusted the camels so much with their treks across the desert. It is quite amazing what the camels can do. Camels are the oldest form of transportation for the Arabian people. If you are lucky, you might even spot some animals native to the barren deserts, such as scorpion and oryxes. Tours can be found in the city of Dubai but if you enjoy the comfort of knowing it will be ready for you when you arrive, book online. Many of the tours include dinner at their desert camp, sand buggy rides, henna painting, or a combination of any of the above. It is the perfect way to spend the evening in Dubai.
Nominated by Living Out Lau
Hot Air Balloon Ride at Sunrise
Whether you have flown in a hot air balloon or not, the experience of doing so over the dunes near Dubai at dawn is unparalleled.
You will get up early and you will have to be transported from your accommodation in the city to the middle of the desert an hour or an hour and a half by car from Dubai, but it will all be worth it when you finally ride the balloon and start ascending over the sand landscape that seems to have no end.
If the sky is clear, you can also watch the sun rise over the mountains in the distance, and if you are lucky you may see some of the animals that populate the area like the mystical oryx, which usually grazes in one of the green areas that dot the dunes and the graceful falcons that fly over the desert.
Personally I recommend to book this experience with a reputed company like Balloon Adventures Emirates as it all went smoothly, I felt safe at all times, the staff that picked me up and the pilot were very professional, patient, friendly and knowledgeable, and it turned out to be an excellent day that I will always remember.
Without a doubt, one of the many things that will make me return to Dubai very soon. Stay tuned.
Nominated by A World to Travel
Stay at a Desert Resort
Many tourists make the mistake of never living the downtown area of Dubai. To me this is one of the biggest mistakes you can make when staying in Dubai as for me you can’t go to the Middle East without visiting the desert. There are plenty of ways to visit the desert from Dubai including doing dune bashing tours and camel rides. However my favourite way to see the desert outside of Dubai is to stay in one of Dubai’s luxury desert resorts.
We most recently stayed at the Bab Al Shams desert resort which is a great way of seeing the desert with toddlers and kids. The resort is actually only a short drive from central Dubai and Maktoum airport but you feel like you are in the middle of the desert and there are plenty of traditional activities to do from camel rides and falconry to more active pursuits such as fat bike tours of the dunes.
If you are travelling as adults there are also some adults only resorts further into the desert which are meant to be spectacular.
Be sure to add a desert resort to your Dubai Bucket list.
For more information on the best areas to stay in Dubai click here!
Dubai Miracle Garden
We made a special family trip from Oman to visit Dubai Miracle Garden. Let me be straight; I’m not a flower lover, and I wouldn’t have gone if it weren’t for my mum who was staying with us. Dubai Miracle Garden was on her bucket list, so we went. I was impressed.
The Miracle Garden is not only the world’s largest flower garden with over 150 million flowers, but it’s a beautiful space too. If I were a bee, I would call this place heaven.
The centrepiece, and holding the Guinness record for the world’s largest flower display, is a life-size floral model of an A380 Superjumbo. Other exhibits change annually, as the Garden is open from mid-November to mid-May.
We found something for all the family to enjoy. Amongst the variety of displays, there are flower tunnels and alleys where both the flowers and shade structures are colourful. Every detail is perfectly manicured and ideal for Instagram selfie-lovers.
The place is vast, but nonetheless, it gets crowded very fast, so my advice is to go there early, soon after it opens at 9 am. Admire the Garden in peace and have as many undisturbed selfies as you want. If you stay for lunch, there are plenty of eateries and food stands. In the afternoon and evening, the Garden gets more crowded.
If you are visiting with kids, especially, you might combine your visit with the adjacent Butterfly Garden.
Location of Miracle Garden: DubaiLand, Al Barsha South,
Opening hours: Sunday to Thursday 9 am-9 pm, Friday and Saturday 9 am-11 pm.
Admission: Adult (over 12): 50 AED, Children under 12: 40 AED
Nominated by Ania from Travelling Twins
Visit Green Planet Dubai
There are lots of things to do in Dubai and The Green Planet is definitely a unique place that you would never expect to find in the middle of the desert.
Located at city walk, the Green Planet is an enclosed ecosystem which transports you to a tropical rainforest complete with over 3000 different plants and animals. If you love animals, you’ll love the Green planet.
You’ll start your adventure by taking an elevator up to the fourth floor and work your way down the spiral pathway which goes around a gigantic man-made tree. The tree is home to many different species of tropical birds that fly around freely and are super photogenic too so don’t forget your camera!
There are several different animal encounters you can experience here including sloths, sugar gliders, birds, bugs, reptiles, and even a real bat cave!
Once you reach the bottom, you’ll reach the Australian walkabout where you’ll see wallabies and cuckoobaras.
If you’re lucky, you’ll also be able to witness the piranha feeding and you’ll get to see hundreds of piranhas devour their dinner.
Tickets only cost 99 AED ($27 USD) and it only takes around 3 hours to complete depending on your pace. It’s a fun adventure to add your list of things to do while in Dubai.
Nominated by Eat Love Explore
One of the unique things to do in Dubai is to ski! Ski Dubai is one of the very few places in the world where you can ski or snowboard inside. This is a great opportunity to either learn how to ski or get some extra ski tracks done in the middle fo the desert. At Ski Dubai, not only can you ski down the slopes but they have so many other family friendly activities to be enjoyed such as bobsledding, tub rides, snow bumpers, a climbing wall, a winter playground and an ice cave for the family to have an indoor winter wonderland experience.
One of the coolest things that kids love seeing are the penguins inside Ski Dubai, with the option of having an up-close encounter too! They also have all the equipment and ski gear available, so you just need to show up with the family for a day skiing on the slopes. It is located inside the Mall of the Emirates, which makes it extremely convenient to go to for a few hours in between all the other activities there are for families to do there. Next time you are in Dubai hit the ski slopes!
Nominated by The Passport Kids
Visit The Atlantis on The Palm
Dubai is filled with impressive skyscrapers, glitzy restaurants and sights only your dreams can conjure. Nowhere in Dubaibrings this together more than Dubai’s Atlantis, The Palm hotel and resort.
Sitting off the coast of Dubai on the man-made palm, you’ll spot the Atlantis from some distance away. It’s pink hued building with spade shaped gap between the east and west towers is a sight to behold.
If the hotel looks big, that’s because it is. Some 1500 rooms make up the hotel. Whilst even the entry room rooms could never be considered basic, the room of dreams sits under the building itself. Here, guests swap their views of Dubai for the majestic underwater world of Atlantis. Laying in bed watching sharks, sting rays and enormous fish would be an ocean lovers dream.
For those who can’t stump up for the incredibly expensive underwater rooms, you can still enjoy the underwater life. A visit to the aquarium is included in the hotel accommodation price, but there are also plenty of places for non-guests to admire the aquarium. It’s not unusual to stop and stare for minutes on end as you watch the sea life dance in front of you.
When you’re not entertained by the aquarium any longer, you can find a restaurant that suits all tastes. From the exclusive Nobu (bookings essential) to Gordon Ramsey’s Bread Street Kitchen and Hakkasan Dubai, foodies will love it here. Looking for something cheaper? The Burger Joint and Shawafel will meet your casual dining needs.
Atlantis Aquaventure waterpark is also contained within the complex for those who like a water based thrill.
Whether you choose to stay at Atlantis or not, there’s no doubt you’ll enjoy a visit to this impressive property.
Nominated by Our Passion For Travel
Aquaventures at Atlantis
Possibly the most famous water park anywhere on the globe, Aquaventures is both a thrill-seekers paradise and a family destination!
With a range of amazing water rides, organised into two main towers (The Tower of Neptune and The Tower of Poseidon) and lazy rivers and rapids, there really is something for everyone.
In our opinion, the standout rides at the park are the Leap of Faith, Zoomerango and Poseidon’s Revenge.
If there’s on ride at Aquaventures that you’ve probably seen in the media, the Leap of Faith will be it! With what feels like a near-vertical drop into a tank of live sharks, it really is a sight to behold.
Add to your list Zoomerango, which is a giggle-inducing raft ride (with a killer drop) and Poseidon’s Revenge, with its drop-pod (for maximum thrills) and you’ve got the perfect adrenaline-filled day out!
For those looking for a more sedate day in the sun, there are a number of fantastic (and more relaxed) raft rides and traditional waterslides waiting for you, along with the best lazy river that we’ve ever seen. We should probably warn you though, in some areas the river becomes a torrent, so be sure to hold on tight.
Aquaventures out on the Palm is one of the best things to do in Dubai and with something to suit the whole family, it’s a must-do in our opinion!
Nominated by Exploring Kiwis
Helicopter Tour from the helipad of Atlantis The Palm
Are you looking for some of the best Dubai attractions during your first trip? A helicopter tour from the helipad of Atlantis The Palm is one of the coolest things to do in Dubai during your visit to the United Arab Emirates. If you love thrill and adventure, this is something you shouldn’t miss exploring to enjoy the most. The best part of this tour is to take off from Dubai’s most iconic landmark Atlantis The Palm helipad and then explore the ultimate beauty of Dubai city from the sky. You’ll love flying high and enjoy the stunning beauty of the Palm Islands. The palm tree-shaped Palm Islands is the most beautiful man-made creation in Dubai as well as the entire UAE. During this Helicopter tour, you’ll also get the chance to fly around one and only Burj Al Arab and the tallest Burj Al Khalifa.
Many exciting packages are there to select according to your choice. The price varies based on the duration. Furthermore, it is safe to enjoy. Dubai helicopter ride is a great way to see the best view of this beautiful city entirely from a unique perspective and definitely should be in your Dubai bucket list.
Nominated by My Own Way to Travel
Dubai Marina Cruise Dinner
There are plenty of places in Dubai to see the glittering skyline of the city but during my experience I found the dinner at the Dubai Marina cruise to be the best way to enjoy the beauty of modern Dubai.
In the dinner cruise, one can not only munch some delicious Arabian cuisine but also feel the even breeze while cruising surrounded by skyscrapers, the best which cannot be seen anywhere in the world! The complete package for the Dubai Marina dinner cruise cost AED 250 per person.
The boat is a double-decker modern boat with a closed AC compartment at the bottom side and an open area to sit on the top. The best views obviously come from the top open area of the boat. The boat starts sailing at 8 PM, which is a two-hour cruise with Continental and Arabian dinner buffet, a Tanora dance performance (Egyptian dance) and a belly dance show.
The boat starts cruising from the marina passing through the skyscrapers that shines in the night eventually entering the sea after an hour of cruising. From there, it then starts its journey back to the Dubai Marina. On the way back, magnificent views of Atlantis The Palm hotel can also be seen from a distance.
Nominated by the Sane Adventurer
Dubai Parks & Resorts
Sitting on the outskirts of Dubai is the ultimate adventure playground of Dubai! Home to three theme parks, a water park, a Polynesian resort and an entertainment district, Dubai Parks and Resorts has really grown to be a destination in its own right and will only get bigger.
The flagship park is Legoland Dubai, perfect for the junior audience with an attached Legoland Waterpark – ideal for the desert conditions. Next up is Motiongate – a custom designed movie-based theme park with a big focus on Dreamworks animated characters, as well as a Smurf Village, Hunger Games, Ghostbusters and Columbia Pictures section. Last but not least for the theme parks is the flamboyant and colourful Bollywood Parks with its entertaining nightly dance shows.
All the parks are connected by the beautiful Riverland Dubai entertainment district. There are themed areas from the 1950’s America dinner style Boardwalk through to the French Village. Throughout you will find popular restaurants and street entertainment, and in cooler months movie nights in the park along with market stalls and family-based activities.
Staying nearby the action is easy at Lapita Resort which had great accommodation and theme park ticket packages, as well as its own lazy river and amazing weekend daycations!
Nominated by Family Travel Middle East
IMG World of Adventures
Dubai is full of adventurous activities including many amazing theme parks. One of the parks which is a perfect fun destination for adults as well as kids is the IMG World of Adventures which opened its doors in 2016 to the public. It is world’s first mega theme park and is made up of five themes. It also holds the honour of being the largest theme park in the world. It has theme of cartoon network which features many famous cartoons themed rides which any adrenaline junkie would love. IMG World of Adventures is loved by Avengers fans as it has Avengers-themed rides and souvenirs stores too. World’s first haunted hotel has been introduced at IMG and is a perfect treat for people who enjoy spooky stuff. There are some outdoor rides also and an entire area dedicated to the Lost Valley which is dinosaur adventure zone. One of the areas is introduced as IMG Boulevard and features the rides which are originally created by IMG. There are many live shows and performances held at IMG to keep the visitors entertained who aren’t interested in the rides. With an entry ticket of 250 AED that includes all the activities, IMG World of Adventures is a must-visit park in Dubai.
Nominated by Verses by a Voyager
Food Tour in Deira
One of the absolute must things to do in Dubai is to take a food tour in Deira, one of the oldest areas in Dubai and a true Dubai hidden gem. Here you will find traders and working-class people from mostly Asian subcontinents who work throughout the day and this is also where the souqs are located.
No pretentious environment and a place definitely not filled with tourists, Deira attracts those with love for culture, food, and history. Take a walk through the alleys and indulge in food brought from different countries of the working crowd which has become part of the street food scene here. You won’t burn a hole in your pocket too as prices are kept affordable. After looking around, you will also have access to visit the Dubai Museum nearby or take a ride on the abra to cool yourself.
Start with a breakfast of chebab, regag, or bread wrapped with Oman chips and labneh! In the evenings, the streets get busy and that’s when you will find the popular shawarma or falafel sandwiches for vegetarians. End your meal with the sweet Karak (milk tea) or if you’re not too full, try Luqaimat (fried dumplings made of dough and topped with date syrup and sesame seeds) All in all, whatever you do, don’t miss trying the food in Deira, or like we call it here, Old Dubai.
Nominated by Hungryoungwoman
Freez: Ice cream and dessert treats in Dubai
Dubai is a fabulous city with loads of attractions you must go and see. But at the end of the day with the temperatures still hovering in the high 30s you owe it to yourself to indulge yourself in a cooling chocolate sweet treat. The citizens of Dubai love their desserts and many go to their nearest ‘Freez’ shop to pick up their frozen chocolate delights.
On out last trip we were fortunate that there was a ‘Freez’ just around the corner from the FORM hotel in Al Jaddaf. It’s really close to the Al Jadaff Metro Station too. Their ice cream is just fantastic. However, they also create fab desserts with strawberries, peanut butter, Oreos and a range of fruit and chocolate. They make fabulous waffles, pancakes, chocolate coated strawberries. Some of their classics include The Banana Nutella Crepe, the Red Velvet Crepe, Pistachio Lava Cake, Pistachio Waffles, Shish Pancake and the Red Kinder Volcano.
So, if you like ice cream and nutty chocolaty desserts go to Freez you won’t regret it. And guess what, its not only good it’s really inexpensive as well and you can order online for delivery to your hotel! However, if you do visit, the décor is really quirky with bright graffiti walls and (our favourite) mini metal ship containers being used for tissues! Go on, indulge yourself – you won’t regret it!
Nominated by Pack the PJs.
How many of these things have you ticked off your Dubai Bucket List?