Try something new: 15 fun new things to do in Dubai

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From spectacular shows to beach clubs and dining spots, here are some of the best new things to do in Dubai.

1. Check out a world-first show

La Perle, the long awaited Franco Dragone water-based show, has finally opened its doors. The 1,300-seat theatre in Al Habtoor City is the only one of its kind in the world, consisting of an “aqua stage” filled with 2.7 million litres of water. The theatre has been custom-built for an international cast of 65 skilled artists, who demonstrate stunning aquatic and aerial stunts during the 90-minute live show. Shows take place twice a night, five days a week.

La Perle, Al Habtoor City, Tues to Fri, 7pm to 8.30pm and 9.30pm to 11pm and Sat 4pm to 5.30pm and 7pm to 8.30pm, tickets from Dh400. La Perle Tel: (04) 437 0001. More info on website.

2. Go on a culinary abra tour

You know how Aladdin showed Jasmine the world on a magic carpet ride? Well, the concept here is almost the same – except instead of sightseeing you’ll be tasting your way around the globe, gliding through Madinat Jumeirah’s winding waterways from restaurant to restaurant on an electric abra. Your journey starts at The Hide meatery in Al Qasr, where you’ll enjoy a welcome drink and some tasty appetizers before your private abra ferries you to Chinese restaurant Zheng He’s. After a delicious main of Peking duck pancakes, you’ll sail to Mexican restaurant Tortuga for dessert and after-dinner drinks. It’s a great option if you have visitors in town, or a date you want to impress.

Madinat Jumeirah, bookable daily from 6pm, maximum of six people per abra. Dhs888 per couple, includes alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks. Tel: (04) 432 3232. More info on website.

3. Meet The Green Planet’s newest residents

The indoor tropical rainforest in City Walk is now home to two mischievous monkeys. The Tamarin twins (who are yet to be named) can be seen monkeying around in their new environment, living just as they would in a real rainforest. Remember, The Green Planet has more than 3,000 plants and animals – as well as the world’s largest indoor man-made and life-sustaining tree – so it’s bound to be an educational day out for everyone.

The Green Planet, City Walk, Jumeirah, Dubai. Sat to Wed 10am to 6pm, Thurs and Fri 10am to 8pm. Tickets Dhs95 for adults, Dhs70 for children aged 3 to 12. More info on website. 

4. Enjoy dinner and a show

Dubai Opera has a new rooftop restaurant by celebrity chef Sean Connolly. The restaurant (simply named Sean Connolly at Dubai Opera) is described as an “informal brasserie, with an uncomplicated and produce-driven menu”, serving up steak and seafood. It’s the perfect spot for a pre-show dinner…

Dubai Opera, Downtown Dubai, various shows, restaurant timings to be confirmed. Sean Connolly Tel: (04) 362 7312, Dubai Opera Tel: (04) 440 8888. More info on website.

5. Volunteer at this Dubai children’s hospital

Al Jalila Children’s Specialty Hospital has just launched a volunteer programme called Abtaal Al Jalila, or Al Jalila Heroes. UAE residents over the age of 16 can apply to be “superheroes” at the hospital – sharing talents such as juggling, dancing, singing and storytelling. You’ll have to be available to volunteer for at least two hours a week.

Al Jalila Children’s Specialty Hospital, Al Jaddaf. Register via the website.

6. Take a dip in a new beach club

If a swan float is a compulsory accessory to your swimming pool session then Azure Beach at the new Rixos Premium hotel in JBR will be perfect for you. Climb aboard an inflatable toy in the well-sized infinity pool, or soak up the views from the comfort of your sunbed, with Dubai’s under-construction ferris wheel providing an impressive backdrop. There’s a decent menu of poolside treats, too – we were eyeing up the fruit platters and pizzas.

Rixos Premium Dubai, daily 10am to late, Dhs100 (weekdays), Dhs200 (weekends). Half price under-12s, under-fives free. Tel: (055) 777 9472. Tram: Jumeirah Beach Residence 1. More info on website.

7. Hit the shops at this unique spot

Dubai has plenty of mega malls, and lots of strip malls, but Mirdif 35 – a new lifestyle centre off Al Khawaneej Road – feels special thanks to its blend of boutique and homegrown brands. There are boutique barbers, holistic health centres, a Japanese bakery and a bespoke gift-wrapping store in the cute new mall. There are also several beauty salons, cosmetic health and wellness centres (and a Pilates studio will open soon).

Mirdif 35, 60C Street opposite Arabian Center, Sun to Wed 10am to 10pm, Thurs to Sat 10am to midnight. Tel: (04) 256 5510. More info on website.

8. Pop into JBR’s new bakery

You might have noticed some rather delicious smells wafting from The Beach at JBR recently – well, that’s because Bouchon Bakery has just opened there. The sweet spot is the brainchild of celebrity chef Thomas Keller, who has seven Michelin stars under his belt, and this is his first Bouchon Bakery outside of the US. You’ll find all your favourite baked treats, as well as an all-day menu of French-style pastries, sandwiches, salads and soups.

The Beach, JBR, 8am to 11pm weekday and 9am to midnight weekends. Tel: (04) 419 0772. More info on website.

9. Make a pitstop at the new Last Exit

You know the 1950s-influenced food truck park ‘Last Exit’ located in Jebel Ali? Well, now there’s another one located at Exit E11 of Sheikh Zayed Road, with a post-apocalyptic future theme. Dubbed ‘Mad X’, the new park is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and features all manner of end-of-the-world themed decor, including war rigs, monster trucks, and flickering TV screens. It’s also home to 11 of Dubai’s top food trucks, with everything from burgers to bao available.

Last Exit E11, Sheikh Zayed Road South, Interchange 11, open 24 hours daily. More info on website.

10. Indulge in afternoon tea

If you’re after a quintessentially British afternoon with a bit of a twist, you’ll find it at Dukes Dubai. The hotel has just launched a Saturday “ParTea” brunch, hosted in the third floor tea lounge. You’ll be presented with a tiered tower of finger sandwiches and mini savouries, with the option to order more of each of your favourites. Then there’s a buffet of sweet treats with everything from battenbergs and lemon meringue pie to red velvet cake and pint-size creme brulee. Fresh-from-the-oven scones finish off the afternoon. Pinkies up!

Dukes Dubai, Oceana Complex, Palm Jumeirah, Saturdays 2pm to 6pm, Dhs195 soft, Dhs240 with one glass of sparkling, Dhs340 with unlimited sparkling Dhs520 with unlimited French bubbles. Tel: (04) 317 6000. More info on website.

11. Try a new Friday brunch

The five-hour Blazin’ Brunch at Miss Lily’s offers a great balance of a la carte food, a wide selection of drinks and a party vibe that builds up through the afternoon. Packages include one starter, main, side and dessert, with dishes running the gamut from jerk chicken roti and fish tacos to oxtail stew and sea bass with Scotch bonnet chillies. You can check out more of our favourite new brunches here.

Sheraton Grand Hotel, Sheikh Zayed Road, Fri noon to 5pm, Dhs250 with soft drinks, Dhs390 with cocktails. Tel: (04) 354 4074. More info on website.

12. Book a table at this new restaurant

La Boheme Magic, the mysterious ivy-covered restaurant in JBR, has finally opened its doors. Described as a “premium grill”, the restaurant sources products from all over the world – including specialty game-meat – which means it offers dishes you can’t find anywhere else in Dubai. The interiors alone are worth a visit – a larger-than-life kaleidoscope chandelier hangs in the centre of the dining room, while a dark purple and gold colour scheme runs throughout the rest of the space.

La Boheme Magic, The Walk at Jumeirah Beach Residence, open daily 12pm to 1am. Tel: (04) 240 8744. More info on Facebook.

13. Sign up to a new spinning studio

CycleBar has launched its first spinning studio outside the US in City Walk. There’s a range of classes for all fitness levels, as well as state-of-the-art audio, visual and lighting technology that helps create a “multisensory experience” for riders. Perfect for those who like a little something extra from their workouts…

City Walk, Sun to Thur 6am to 10pm, Fri and Sat 8am to 8pm, Dhs120. Tel: (04) 395 5523. More info on website.

14. Stop by the Waterfront Market

When the iconic Deira Fish Market closed its doors, it was replaced by the Waterfront Market near Hamriya Port. The new spot on Al Khaleej Road is said to be cleaner and more comfortable than the old facility, with air-conditioning, covered parking, and stricter hygiene regulations. The market isn’t totally finished yet – not all vendors have moved in – but it’s still well worth a nosey.

Waterfront Market, near Hamriya Port, Dubai, weekdays 10am to 10pm, weekends to 11pm. Tel: (04) 7071599. More info on website.

15. Take the kids to the gym

Dubai’s first kids-only gym, Little Gladiators, has opened at Golden Mile Galleria Mall on Palm Jumeirah. Targeted at children aged 3 to 14 years, activities include gymnastics, yoga, tree climbing, kickboxing, cardio and an interactive climbing wall. There’s also a swimming pool with sessions led by qualified instructors, and even a kids’ spa. Little Gladiators also offers aerobics classes for mums and private family swimming lessons so parents can get in on the action, too.

Little Gladiators, Golden Mile 3, Palm Jumeirah, daily 10am to 8pm, annual membership fees from Dhs999 per child. Tel: (04) 240 8709. More info on website.

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