Dubai boasts the reputation of being the city of the most extraordinary experiences. Yes, the things to do in Dubai are unmatched by any other destination in the Middle East. It will have sightseers in awe, foodies dribbling, culture buffs circling, and daredevils gratified.
Where is Dubai?
Dubai is the UAE’s second-largest emirate and the Middle East’s most famous city on the Persian Gulf coast. It is just two hours’ drive from the country’s capital and the largest emirate, Abu Dhabi, and about 40 minutes away from its cultural hub, Sharjah. Apart from these, it shares borders with the Sultanate of Oman. Dubai International Airport is the main airport, which is also one of the world’s busiest airports, with regular flights to and from almost all parts of the world.
When is the best time to visit Dubai?
Dubai is a desert city, and temperatures can reach scorching highs in the peak summer months of July and August. It’s generally not recommended to visit Dubai during this period. But, if you’re not outdoorsy or want to save on your vacation, a Dubai trip in the summer won’t disappoint you.
November to March is the peak tourist season when Dubai is at its best. It has pleasant chill waters and many iconic attractions and events, primarily the New Year’s Eve festivities and Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF). Now if you want to enjoy the best of both worlds, you can visit Dubai during the shoulder season from April to mid-June or mid-September to October.
1. Burj Khalifa – World’s Tallest Building
Experience what it’s like to see the whole of Dubai and beyond from the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. Gain a standard admission ticket to the 124th level ‘At the Top’ observation deck or the 148th level Sky ticket to experience the world’s highest observation deck at over 555 meters. A swift elevator ride and a multimedia display (on Dubai’s transformation from a fishing village to a global city) are part of your Burj Khalifa experience.
2. The Dubai Mall
The Dubai Mall is an all-in-one destination where you can indulge in shopping, sample sumptuous cuisines, and participate in endless activities and experiences. More than 1,200 shops spread across its massive area will satiate every shopping desire, while 200 plus dining options here will delight your senses.
Want to venture beyond shopping and dining? This place is for all, including kids and grownups; gawk at the fascinating underwater creatures that occupy the colossal 10-million-liter tank at Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, try ice skating across Dubai Ice Rink’s frozen floors or ride the latest go-karts at Ekart Zabeel.
3. Dubai Fountain Show
This signature fountain, on the Burj Lake and against the background of Burj Khalifa, presents a well-synchronized spectacle of water, music, and lights. Launched a decade ago, it remains one of Dubai’s top must-sees. It’s a free attraction, but you gain priority access to this water performance on a Dubai Fountain Lake ride or by taking to the Dubai Fountain Boardwalk.
4. The View at the Palm Jumeirah
The artificial Palm Jumeirah is undoubtedly one of the city’s most legendary attractions. This island is an unequaled engineering marvel, resembling a giant palm tree crowned by a crescent. You can absorb the comprehensive 360-degree views of this stunning island and Arabian Gulf most safely just by hitting the View at the Palm, the dedicated observatory deck on the Palm Tower’s 52nd level. Beyond views, you can participate in immersive experiences enlightening you on the island’s fascinating facts.
5. Visit the Museum of the Future
Dubai is an uber-futuristic city, the ultimate proof of which is the Museum of the Future. This brand-new museum, next to Emirates Tower, is straight out of a sci-fi movie, where its ring-like architecture, avant-garde displays, and the astonishingly themed segment will transport 50 years forward.
6. Burj Al Arab Tour
A selfie or a photograph snapped against the iconic Burj Al Arab is something you can’t afford to miss in Dubai, especially if it’s your first-time visit. Burj Al Arab, an all-suite, five-star hotel, is one of the top tourist attractions in Dubai. A stay here, even for a single night, will set you back a fortune. But if you’re curious about what makes this sail-shaped structure one of the world’s most luxurious and expensive accommodations, you can take a butler-guided Inside Burj Al Arab Tour. It introduces you to its prized interiors, stunning Royal Suite, and the recently unveiled UMA Lounge.
7. Dhow Cruise at Dubai Marina
It’s one of the top attractions to experience in Dubai at night. As the sun sets and the illuminated structures lend a distinct allure to the night skyline, hop on a traditional wooden dhow for an approximately two-hour cruise along Dubai Marina’s stylish waterfront sights. Immerse yourself in the vessel’s rustic settings and admire Dubai’s magnificence from the water. Depending on your cruise package, buffet dining, and entertainment options are arranged onboard.
8. Sky View Dubai
Looking to marvel at the sky-high views with a sprinkle of pure fun and adventure? Dubai’s latest attraction, Sky Views Dubai, within the Address Sky View Hotel, won’t disappoint you. It has an observation deck spread over the hotel’s 52nd and 53rd levels. But that’s not all; it allows you to ride an incredible transparent glass slide from the 53rd to the 52nd level, the first of its kind in the Middle East.
9. Dinner in the Sky
Dubai is hands-down a foodies’ paradise; you can look forward to tantalizing your taste buds with almost all you crave, be it Arabic, Chinese, English, American, Italian, or Mediterranean flavors. There are street food stalls, picturesque art cafes, and even restaurants run by celebrity chefs. But what if you want to take your dining experience to the next level? Simply book a ‘Dinner in the Sky’ or a ‘Flying Cup’ adventure; it lets you participate in a sky-high culinary session surrounded by the most panoramic city views.
10. Experience Old Dubai
The quaint parts of Old Dubai are often overlooked, but it’s where you’ll discover some real treasures that capture the real spirit of the Emirati past. One such spot is Al Bastakiya or Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood. This painstakingly preserved enclave gives you a taste of early 20th-century Dubai, where the antiquated sandstone structures and wooden wind towers remain intact. You can step into the Dubai Museum (inside Dubai’s oldest fort, Al Fahidi Fort), the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, and the Al Bastakiya Art Café, to name a few.
11. Dubai Helicopter Tour
Dubai is already grand and glitzy from the ground, but admiring it from above on an aerial tour takes the city’s grandeur to the next level. You can take a helicopter tour or add a twist to your flight with a thrilling seaplane tour. It lets you see the iconic landmarks, man-made islands, ports, and endless desert from an unrivaled vantage point.
12. Visit a Theme Park
Theme park lovers and thrill seekers will find Dubai a haven to enjoy the most astonishing rides, slides, and attractions. Subject to your preference, you can tour IMG Worlds of Adventure, one of the world’s largest indoor theme parks, or even spend a whole day at Dubai Parks and Resorts, with three parks (such as Motiongate Dubai, LEGOLAND Dubai, and LEGOLAND Water Park). Head to the ultimate Ski Dubai, covered with snow, for pure winter-themed fun, while hardcore gamers should check out the Arcade by Hub Zero. Dubai also has wonderful options for water park enthusiasts, such as Atlantis Aquaventure and Wild Wadi Water Park.
13. Spend a Day in Hatta
Looking to take a break from Dubai’s busy city center? Retreat to Hatta Dam Lake, an enclave of Dubai where time stands still. Located less than an hour from the city, Hatta’s unpretentious allure and antiquated sights transport you to a different era. The best thing is that you can participate in various activities depending on your abilities.
14. Malls and Souks
Shopaholics are in for a treat while in Dubai. You can check out high-end designer stores and premium outlets within the city’s 70-plus malls, mainly the Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates, Ibn Battuta Mall, Burjuman Centre, etc. But for maximum shopping deals, browse the packed shops across the narrow streets of the traditional Arabian bazaars or souks, especially the Gold Souk, Spice Souk, and Textile Souk.
15. Go on a Desert Safari
Want to find yourself in the footsteps of the ancient desert dwellers? All you need to do is embark on a fully guided desert safari with the right measure of amusement, entertainment, culture, and thrill. A 4×4 dune bash through the unparalleled golden sands will soar your adrenaline levels, while a shaky camel ride will transport you to the region’s bygone era.
Activities like henna tattooing, falconry, and Shisha smoking will familiarize you with the fascinating Emirati culture and heritage. Choose an evening or overnight desert safari, as it lets you absorb the desert charm in all its glory with a delicious BBQ dinner and traditional performances, including belly dance and a Tanura show.
16. Global Village Dubai
Fancy traveling around the world in a day? A visit to Global Village Dubai is the answer! This multi-cultural theme park has over 36 pavilions representing close to 80 countries, which means you can experience diverse cultures, sample authentic cuisines, and watch mesmerizing cultural events in a few hours. But it is open only during winter, from November to March.
17. Dubai Miracle Garden
It is another much-awaited seasonal attraction in Dubai, active only during winter. It is the world’s largest garden, spanning over 72,000 square meters. With over 150 million colorful flowers, lush plants, and themed gardens, this Dubai attraction radiates an air of awe and fantasy.
18. Thrilling Water Activities
Can’t imagine winding up your Dubai vacation without getting wet? Luckily, Dubai’s waters will treat your wild side to the most fantastic water sports activities. They range from the all-time favorite jet skiing, kayaking, and SUP (stand-up paddle) to the fun-packed fly fishing and donut boat ride to the most intense and exotic water adventures like flyboarding, e-foiling, jetcar riding, etc.
19. Airborne Adventures
Yes, Dubai is one of the ultimate playgrounds for adventurists. Feel unmatched excitement blast through your veins when you jump from an aircraft at an altitude of over 12,000 feet on a skydive session. If this is too extreme, you can consider floating over the desert on a hot air balloon flight or zip over the city’s glamorous cityscape with an XLine Dubai adventure, the world’s longest and fastest urban zipline experience.
20. Madame Tussauds Dubai
Set against Bluewaters Island’s pulsating vibe and right next to the largest-of-its-kind Ain Dubai (observation wheel), it’s the Middle East’s first Madame Tussauds Museum. You can expect to catch up with the life-size replicas of all your favorite personalities representing diverse domains of fame under one roof. So don’t miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime chance to pose with your beloved musicians, influencers, movie stars, sports personalities, politicians, and historians, among others.
Things to Do in Dubai on Your Vacation
Whether leisure, cultural, historical, or natural attractions, Dubai showcases everything grandly. No single list of Dubai things to do can encompass them all. The above list of things to do in Dubai you shouldn’t miss proves a great starting point for planning your dream Arabian vacation.
This article originally appeared on Wander With Alex.
Neha Singh is a postgraduate in Mass Communications, who loves everything about life. Traveling is extremely close to her heart and writing came to her naturally. An avid trekker & explorer, who often takes off some time from her busy life for mountaineering. She loves meeting new people & gets attached to their culture very easily. Her ambition is to explore as many places as she can in her life. She strongly believes in Gandhian principle – “simple living high thinking.”