Thrill or chill? Here are 22 things to do in Dubai, whatever your mood
From skydiving and off-roading to spas and staycations, there’s a whole host of things to do in Dubai – whether you want to get fired up or flake out.
So why not try something different?
Thrill: China Grill Toy
Loud, proud and packed every Friday, the brunch at this glamorous Chinese fusion restaurant is all about the party with a capital P. The eight-course menu is served using sushi art boats, graffiti dim sum trollies and model car champagne carts. Plus, the mixologists put on a show.
Westin Mina Seyahi, Al Sufouh, Dubai, Fri 1.30pm to 4.30pm, Dhs450 with house drinks, Dhs550 with champagne. Tel: (04) 5117333. Taxi: Westin Mina Seyahi. chinagrilldubai.com
Chill: Brasserie 2.0
Calm, sophisticated and big on food, Le Royal Méridien Beach Resort & Spa’s brunch is a real treat. There are dozens of cooking stations hidden around corners and more tucked away outside.
Le Royal Méridien Beach Resort & Spa, Dubai Marina, Dubai, 1.30pm to 4.30pm, Dhs400 with soft drinks, Dhs525 with house drinks, Dhs725 with champagne. Tel: (04) 3176000. Taxi: Le Royal Méridien Beach Resort & Spa. brasserie2point0.com
In the desert
Thrill: Off-road courses
In a city with six-lane motorways, it seems almost unbelievable that just 20 minutes out of Dubai you could be off-roading in the heart of the desert. Off-Road Zone’s new experiences teach you how to properly dune-bash. Using a fully modified Jeep Wrangler, trained guides put you in the driving seat. You’ll receive personal instruction, driving tips and learn all the techniques necessary to have a safe but adrenaline-fuelled drive.
JA Ocean View Hotel, JBR, Dubai, Sat to Thur 1pm to 6pm, Dhs1,400. Tel: (04) 3392449. Taxi: JA Ocean View. offroad-zone.com
Unwind, unplug and get back to nature – camping is a chance to step out of your day-to-day life and find your special spot under the stars. The easiest place to camp in Dubai is out past Al Qudra cycle track. You’ll feel far enough from the city but near enough to civilisation for complete peace of mind.
Drive towards Trek bike store, beside Al Qudra Cycle Track. Deflate your tyres and make a beeline for the dunes.
If you like your massages high on the ‘ouch’ scale you’ll love cupping. A candle is lit over your body and a cup is placed over the top. As the flame burns out, the rubber cup sucks onto your problem area with ferocity, supposedly promoting blood flow and loosening the muscles. The verdict? It’s more effective than a straight-up rub down (but be ready for post-treatment bruises).
Yinyang, Village Mall, Jumeirah 1, Dubai, Dhs150. Tel: (04) 3855155. Taxi: Village Mall. yinyang.ae
Now for a pleasingly literal take on chilling out: the Cryotherapy facial. Instead of being massaged with fragrant creams, your face will be blasted with icy cold jets of air. The cold air shrinks pores to seal in important oils, and to help stop dirt from building up and causing breakouts.
Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai, Sat to Thur 8am to 10pm, Fri noon to 10pm, Dhs325. Tel: (04) 3518300. Metro: Emirates Towers. cryo-health.com
Thrill: Inflatable waterpark
The latest building in Dubai to win a world record was made using absolutely no concrete. The new inflatable waterpark at the beach opposite JBR is the longest in the world and What’s On was among the first to try the new bouncy, watery ride. After several hours, we can confirm that it is indeed very long, very wet and very enjoyable. Check out our video at youtube.com/whatsondubai.
Dubai Waterpark, The Beach, Dubai, daily 10am to 7pm, Dhs80. Tel: (050) 7849784. Taxi: JBR. thebeach.ae
Chill: Floatation tank
We all know how beneficial a hot bath can be and this new stress-busting floatation therapy treatment takes it to the next level. In your own private pool, heated to precisely 36°C and packed with Epsom salts, any stresses quite literally float away as you bob about on top of the water like a rubber duck.
Talise Spa, Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Dubai, daily 9am to 10pm, Dhs200. Tel: (04) 3198181. Metro: Emirates Towers. jumeirah.com
Thrill: Yellow Boats night tour
There’s something a little bit Bond about cruising the water by jet-boat. But there’s a real bonus if you decide to book on a trip with The Yellow Boats this month; the company has just unveiled a week of special nighttime tours, so you can do your Daniel Craig-style sailing around the city by twilight.
Dubai Marina, Dubai, daily 6pm, Dhs280, Dhs210 children, until October 31. Tel: (04) 4328543. Taxi: Dubai Marina. yellowboats.com
Chill: Hire a catamaran
Relax on your very own sunset cruise or party until the sun goes down – the choice is yours. Xtreme Yacht has a huge fleet, but its stunning catamaran complete, with on-deck barbecue, sound system and space for 33 of your friends, is the ultimate way to go.
Sorp Business Centre, Barsha Heights (Tecom), daily 8am to 6pm, Dhs1,900 per hour. Tel: (056) 3423013. Taxi: Tecom. xtremeyacht.com
In the air
Thrill: Sky dive
Let’s face it: you’re nobody in Dubai unless your Facebook cover photo has shown you in starfish pose 13,000 feet above The Palm. Sure, it’s a lot of money to spend on 50 seconds of free-fall (a tandem jump costs Dhs1,999), but the DVD of you plummeting to Earth sticking your tongue out will last forever.
Skydive Dubai Drop Zone, Dubai, Mon to Sat 6.30am to 2pm. Tel: (04) 3778888. Taxi: Skydive Dubai. skydivedubai.ae
Chill: Hot-air balloon ride
If there’s a more serene way to start your day than by floating above the desert in a giant balloon, then we’d like to hear about it. You’ll watch the sun rise over undulating sand dunes that make up a desert conservation reserve, and spot oryx and camels from your prime position 4,000 feet up.
Pick up from Dubai Outlet Mall, daily 5am, Dhs1,055. Tel: (04) 3884044. Taxi: Outlet Mall. ballooning.ae
Thrill: Watch a 4D movie
Feel like you’re actually living/starring in the latest blockbuster. The theme-park-style seats tip and twist you with the action, a spritz of water shoots into your face, and wind fans make you feel as if you’re in a Beyoncé music video. Watch this month’s oil-rig drama Deepwater Horizon, and we guarantee you’ll be gripping on to your armrests with the whitest of knuckles.
4DX, VOX Cinemas, Mall Of The Emirates, Dhs130. Tel: (600) 599905. Metro: Mall Of The Emirates. uae.voxcinemas.com
Chill: Platinum movie screens
You could be watching the fourth re-run of your own birth, but if you’re snuggled with a blanket in a soft recliner, table service at your beck and call, and a sound system that feels like its channelled directly into your temporal lobe, somehow you’ll leave feeling like you just had the best time ever.
Reel Cinemas, JBR, Dubai, Dhs130. Tel: (04) 4491988. Taxi: Reel Cinemas JBR. reelcinemas.ae
Thrill: Sharjah Paintball Park
Swap your regular weekend workout for a session at Sharjah Paintball Park. Running up hills and diving into trenches to avoid being caught in your mates’ crosshairs, or commando rolling behind a disused aircraft to escape a shower of paint pellets, surely burns more calories than a boring old Crossfit class. And it’s definitely more fun. Go at night (the park has floodlights) for added drama.
Golf & Shooting Club Sharjah, daily 10am to midnight, Dhs80. Tel: (050) 2032288. Taxi: Sharjah Golf & Shooting Club. paintballuae.com
Chill: Free community yoga
Now that the temperatures are dropping, it’s time to move your practice outdoors. Lakshya Yoga hosts regular community classes, perfect for both beginer and experinced yogis. Head down to Al Barsha Park every Saturday evening. Best of all, you won’t need to sweat about the price as these sessions are free. Just remember to bring your own mat and water.
Al Barsha Pond Park, Gate 4, Al Barsha, Dubai, Sat 6pm to 7pm, free. Tel: (050) 8738109. Taxi: Al Barsha Pond Park. lakshyayoga.com
Thrill: Shark dive
Even the most committed adrenaline junkie would probably prefer any encounter with a shark to take place within a controlled environment. That’s the beauty of swimming among them at The Lost Chambers Aquarium; a dive master and instructor will be right beside you. And while the giant tank’s school of hammerhead sharks certainly looks terrifying enough to send a shiver down your spine, they don’t want to eat humans. Yes, we googled it.
Atlantis The Palm, Dubai, daily 6.45pm, Dhs950. Tel: (04) 4260000. Taxi: Atlantis The Palm. atlantisthepalm.com
Chill: Meet the world’s slowest mammal
If you were to name the most super chill creature on the planet, chances are you’d pick the sloth. These lovable animals are the world’s slowest mammals, so sedentary that algae grows on their furry coat. Head to The Green Planet where a tropical rainforest awaits, but amid the 3,000 plants and animals you’ll find the city’s new resident sloth hiding somewhere.
The Green Planet, City Walk, Jumeirah, Dubai, Sun to Thur 10am to 10pm, Fri and Sat 10am to midnight, Dhs95, Dhs70 under-12s. Taxi: City Walk. thegreenplanetdubai.com
Thrill: W Dubai
The W Dubai is one of the coolest and most popular new spots in the city, drawing a wide range of clientele. The party begins on the 30th floor where the lobby looks more like a club than check-in. Called the W Lounge, here you can take a load off with cocktails and music from sunset to 2am. Elsewhere there are live DJs, pool parties and sunset sessions – welcome to the see-and-be-seen party hotel.
Chill: Park Hyatt Dubai
If you haven’t the time to jet away on a relaxing holiday, a trip to Park Hyatt Dubai by the creek is your next best bet. Wonderful restaurants (Thai Kitchen is still an all-time favourite spot), beautiful views of the creek, the luxurious Amara spa and top-notch service are the highlights of this five-star resort.
Thrill: Single-seater F1-style experience
We’ve all had our fair share of hairy moments on Sheikh Zayed Road, but at Dubai Autodrome, hairpin turns and overtaking at breakneck speed are actually good things. Plus, you’ll be kitted out with safety gear and a helmet. Once the on-site instructors have filled you in on everything you need to know, you’ll get to spend a full 20 minutes zipping around the 1.2km circuit and pretending to be Nico Rosberg.
Dubai Autodrome, Motor City, Dubai, Dhs875. Tel: (04) 3678744. Taxi: Dubai Autodrome. dubaiautodrome.com
Chill: Desert hacking
Exploring the desert is one of those activities that makes living in Dubai so special. Next time, skip the dune bashing and discover the sand dunes by horseback. There are plenty of stables out there, but Al Jiyad Stables is great for both beginners and those looking for a more leisurely hack. Book a sunrise ride (it’s worth the 5am wakeup call) for gorgeous views across the sand, as well as glimpses of some skittish gazelles.
Al Jiyad Stables, Al Qudra Road, Dubai, Dhs150. Tel: (050) 5995866. Taxi: Bab Al Shams Desert Resort. aljiyad.com