What’s On profiles some of the best options for Dubai day trips and UAE landmarks, including things to do in Rak Al Khaimah, Sharjah, Ajman, Abu Dhabi.

Why? To see beautiful birds up close
Don’t miss… 
the hospital’s stunning peregrine mascot
DRIVE TIME (from Dubai): 90mins
Initially only a facility for treating injured falcons and other winged species when it started operations in 2009, The Falcon Hospital has since opened for education purposes, as well as its own training and research on site. Now recognised as one of the best falcon hospitals in the Gulf, it’s also thought to be the biggest in the world. Book a guided tour to learn more about the history of these beautiful birds and how they are being carefully bred around the world. The knowledgeable guide will answer all your questions and let you visit the clinic to find out what a falcon health check involves – well, someone has to trim those talons. 

Sweihan Road, Al Shamka, Abu Dhabi, Sun to Thur 10am and 2pm, Ramadan 10am, Dhs170. Tel: (02) 5755155. falconhospital.com

Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital

Why? To admire the great views
Don’t miss… 
the view from the top. Although it’s pretty hard to avoid it once you’re up there.
DRIVE TIME (from Dubai): Two hours
If you haven’t visited Jebel Hafeet, then shame on you. One of the UAE’s only natural attractions, this 1,240 metre-high mountain stands proudly over Al Ain, with the Mercure hotel perched at its summit. The twisting road, often frequented by cyclists, may prove a feat for those with carsickness, but it’s worth the seven-mile drive to reach the cooler temperature and panoramic views. At the top have a bite to eat from the hotel, or look back down into the green valley at the foot of the mountain. Down in the foothills is the Green Mubazzarah, a popular tourist spot with lawns for picnics and barbeques, children’s play areas and hot springs.

Jebel Al Hafeet Street, Al Ain. Mercure Hotel Tel: (03) 7838888. mercure.com

Jebel Hafeet, Al Ain

Why? To scream with excitement
Don’t miss… 
Bubble’s Barrel, the world’s largest surf-able sheet wave
DRIVE TIME (from Dubai): One hour
If you can’t decide between the world’s fastest rollercoaster and the world’s longest suspended rollercoaster at Yas Island, don’t stress. Ferrari World and Yas Waterworld offer a Yas Park Pass, giving you access to both. As the pass is valid for 14 days you don’t even have to use up all the fun at once. Choose from general admission or premium, the legit version of queue jumping. Expect your day to be filled with Ferrari factory tours, speedy stimulators, motor cinema, shriek-worthy waterslides, and plenty of surfing action.

Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, Dhs360 to Dhs575. Tel: (02) 4968001. Taxi: Ferrari World. tickets.ferrariworldabudhabi.com

Ferrari World, Yas Island

Why? To see the wackiest cars in the Gulf
Don’t miss… 
the five-metre tall Dodge pick-up truck that’s been converted into an apartment
DRIVE TIME (from Dubai): One hour 45 minutes
You don’t earn the nickname ‘The Rainbow Sheikh’ for nothing. The Rainbow Sheikh, AKA Sheikh Hamad bin Hamdan al Nahyan, owns the colourful collection of motors housed in a pyramid-shaped warehouse, pretty much in the middle of nowhere, on the road to the Liwa desert. There you’ll find everything from campervans to classic American sedans, and off-road buggies to military tanks. Some of the vehicles are in their original glory, while others have been tweaked and tailored to include rainbow hubcaps, TVs and refrigerators, even, somewhat crazily, a rooftop golf range. The collection has even been featured in Top Gear – it’s safe to say, this isn’t your average museum.

E65, Off E11, towards Liwa Oasis, daily 8am to 5.30pm, Dhs50. Tel: (050) 8102211. enam.ae

Emirates National Auto Museum

Why? To learn about ocean life without getting wet
Don’t miss… the walk-through arched aquarium surrounded by curious sharks
DRIVE TIME (from Dubai): 40 minutes
Built in 2008, Sharjah Maritime Museum and Sharjah Aquarium cover the A to Z of the life aquatic. With the two facilities located next to each other, you can easily spend a day learning about ocean life around the UAE. Throughout the rooms and exhibits of the Maritime Museum, you’ll be able to explore ancient traditions – from pearl diving to dhow fishing. Next door, the expansive aquarium puts Dubai Mall’s fish tank to shame. Spread across two floors, the 20 separate tanks are home to an estimated 250 species of marine life, from colourful coral and bobbing seahorses to elusive moray eels and majestic reef sharks. 

Al Khan Corniche Street, Al Khan, Sharjah, Mon to Thur and Sat 8am to 8pm, Fri 8am to 4pm, Aquarium Dhs20 per adult, Dhs50 per family, Maritime Museum Dhs8, Dhs20 per family. Aquarium Tel: (06) 5285288. Museum Tel: (06) 5222002. sharjahmuseums.ae

Sharjah-Maritime Museum, and Sharjah Aquarium


Why? To get your adrenalin pumping
Don’t miss… the white-water rafting
DRIVE TIME (from Dubai): One hour 45 minutes
Not for the faint-hearted, Wadi Adventure is an adrenaline-filled waterpark with the world’s longest white-water channel. Test your paddling skills as you spin down the river in a kayak or white-water raft. Or try your hand at surfing in the safety of shark-free waters. If you prefer to stay dry, head over to the airpark and tackle the adventure course’s climbing wall, zip lines, and giant swing. 

Jebel Hafeet, Al Ain, Sun and Tues to Thur 10am to 8pm, Fri and Sat 9am to 9pm, Dhs100. Tel: (03) 7818422. wadiadventure.ae

White water rafting at Wadi Adventure

Why? To keep the kids entertained
Don’t miss… 
the indoor aviary, home to flamboyant flamingos
DRIVE TIME (from Dubai): 50 minutes
Comprising three different venues, Sharjah Natural History and Botanical Museum, Children’s Farm, and Arabian Wildlife Centre, there is something for everyone at Sharjah’s Desert Park. At the museum, the interactive exhibits take you on a journey through time with dinosaur dummies, gushing volcanoes, and meteorite displays. The children’s farm is great for those curious kids, giving them the opportunity to feed and pet various animals. The Arabian Wildlife Centre is worth the trip alone. Housing over 100 native species, it includes a walk-through aviary, reptile section, and nocturnal exhibit. Being entirely indoors, you can view the wildlife from the air-conditioned interior. Best of all, the bargain Dhs15 entrance fee gives you access to all three attractions.

Al Dhaid Road, Sun, Mon, Wed and Thur 9am to 5.30pm, Fri 2pm to 5.30pm, Sat 11am to 5.30pm, Dhs15, Dhs5 children. Tel: (06) 5311999

Why? To test your driving skills
Don’t miss… the adrenaline junkies attempting to conquer this natural phenomenon
DRIVE TIME (from Dubai): 45 minutes
This mammoth sand dune, also known as Al Badayer, is dubbed Big Red because, well, it’s big and red. You might feel like you’re on a wild goose chase as you drive down the deserted road to Hatta, but you’ll soon spot the giant dune. On weekends and holidays this desert spot is swarming with enthusiastic motorists tackling the dune in buggies, quad bikes and jeeps. Alternatively, local tour operators offer a nail-biting drive up the steep slopes, while the surrounding quad-bike rental companies supply another opportunity to raise your heart rate. Those looking for something more docile while still wanting to be part of the action can rent sand boards nearby or set up a picnic (out the way of the reckless petrol-heads) during the cooler hours.

Dubai-Hatta Road, E44.

Big Red, Dubai-Hatta

Why? To brush up on your UAE history
Don’t miss… the Arabic café complete with plastic figurines and shisha
DRIVE TIME (from Dubai): 40 minutes
Nestled in the heart of Ajman, surrounded by the city’s modest high rises, sits the historical Ajman museum. Having undergone many transformations, the attraction began its life as a fort, later the ruler’s palace and office, before an eight-year stint as a police station. Gifted to the people of Ajman by the ruler of the emirate, Sheikh Humaid bin Rashid Al Nuaimi, the fort was converted into a museum to educate citizens, residents and tourists on past professions that proved essential to the people of the UAE. Expect to find manuscripts and other artefacts, old weapons, a burial site and relics, palm leaf houses and crafts and costumes. 

Sheikh Humaid Bin Rashid Al Nuaimi Street, Ajman Corniche, Near Kempinski Ajman, daily 8am to 8pm, Dhs5, Dhs15 per family. Tel: (06) 7116666. acm.gov.ae

Ajman Museum

Why? To try an old school water park and camp by the water
Don’t miss… Hippos Island
DRIVE TIME (from Dubai): One hour
Before Yas Waterworld there was a fantasy water park hiding on the west coast that catered to the UAE’s residents. Claiming to have purely interactive and group-oriented attractions, the park offers basic slides and rides with a few quirky additions. While you have the bog standard children’s wet play area with buckets and slides, there are also floating bumper cars, serpent tube rides, and even a hippo island. The dry attractions include a video zone and go kart circuit for taking a break during rides. Lodgers at the waterside campsite in the park can choose from a tent or cabin with sleeping bags, a cooler, a barbeque dinner and breakfast all included. A great spot for some night swimming.

Ras Al Khaimah Highway, Umm Al Quwain, Sat to Thur 10am to 7pm, Fri 10am to 8pm, Ramadan 10am to 4pm, Dhs135. Tel: (06) 7681888. dreamlanduae.com 

Dreamland Aqua Park, Umm Al Quwain

Why? To get some art and culture
Don’t miss… the traditional calligraphy classes
DRIVE TIME (from Dubai): One hour 25 minutes
Nestled in Al Qattara Oasis is an arts centre that’s part traditional sand-coloured palace and part 21st century take on art deco. Formerly Al Qattara Fort, the facility brings culture and art to the people. The interior walls of the centre are colourfully lined in paintings, with sculptures and installations dotted around the exhibit halls. A selection of studios allows students to learn pottery, painting, photography and the art of calligraphy. There’s plenty of inspiration around the centre in the form of Emirati Warhol-esque murals.

Off Al Baladiyya Street, Al Qattara Oasis, Al Ain, Sat to Thur 9am to 1pm and 4pm to 8pm, Dhs300 for four classes. Tel: (03) 7118225. Taxi: Swedish Medical Clinic Al Ain. artinthecity.com/artmap

Why? To see history brought to life
Don’t miss… the ox-driven water wheel demonstration
DRIVE TIME (from Dubai): One hour 20 minutes
Before the oil and Hummers came along there was ox fighting and pearl diving. Step back in time at Fujairah’s heritage village, where you can learn about these past ways of life. The mud and palm frond houses, complete with cooking utensils, portray traditional home life. Don’t forget to check out the renovated Fujairah fort, next to the village, which is considered the oldest in the UAE.

Behind Sheikh’s Palace, Fujairah. Tel: (09) 2227000. fujmun.gov.ae

Heritage Village, Fujairah

Why? To become an expert in the little cream gems
Don’t miss… the 12mm Miracle Of Arabia pearl sitting on a velvet-lined throne
DRIVE TIME (from Dubai): One hour 20 minutes
Whether you’re a lady who loves shiny objects that come from the ocean, or you’re a gent enthralled by the danger of pearl diving, RAK Pearls Museum is a must-visit. The unique museum covers the history of pearl diving in the UAE and how recent technologies have modernised the techniques of culturing pearls. Set across two floors, the journey begins with an insight into pearl trading before exploring the origin of natural pearls, and how to differentiate between natural and cultured pearls. In a bid to raise awareness about the environment in the UAE, visitors are educated about the importance of preserving marine life and nature. Tours of the museum are guided so you always have someone on hand to answer your queries.

Al Qawassim Corniche, Ras Al Khaimah. Tel: (07) 2277088. rakpearls.com

Peal Museum, Ras Al Khaimah