Calling all big kids…

Big kids of the UAE listen up: You no longer have to grow up. Our city has become one big playground – from crazy golf and tree-climbing to sweetie spa sessions and hoverboards – book-ended by a huge sand pit to the south (read: the desert), and a great big paddling pool to the north (read: the sea).

So, abandon your adulthood, here’s how to start acting like a child in the UAE.

1. Head to a new kidult-friendly playground

Remember the summer fairs and indoor playgrounds of your childhood? The bouncy castles? The climbing frames? The slides? Well, the humble soft-play centre has been given a grown-up makeover at Air Maniax in Al Quoz. Here you can frolic with your friends inside a whopping 23,000 square foot indoor park featuring more than 15 indoor activities to tackle. Not only does it feature an enormous inflatable arena complete with an It’s a Knockout-style rotating wipeout machine, there’s also a massive inflatable obstacle course that you can race through against your mates.

Elsewhere, you’ll find a speedy zip-line that weaves its way across the top of the warehouse, a bouncy basketball and volleyball court, and a Miley Cyrus-inspired wrecking ball where you need to bash your mates off their podium to win.

Away from the inflatable arena, there’s an arcade-style laser tag, another warrior assault obstacle course (this time with a cool interactive element), a climbing tower, and a big foam pit at the end. With all that lot to try, don’t be surprised if you end up hiding in the foam pit while you recover.

Air Maniax, 16 Street 1 (opposite Dynatrade), Al Quoz Industrial First, Dubai, Sat
to Wed 10am to 7pm, Thur and Fri 10am to 9pm. Prices start from Dhs80 for one-hour standard entry or Dhs120 for two hours. Tel: (04) 3488981.

2. Fly high, but indoors

Ever felt like stepping into hurricane force winds to see if you could fly? No? Well, you can do it anyway at iFLY, Dubai’s indoor skydiving centre. Walk into the wind tunnel and before you know it you’ll be horizontal and flying in the air like Superman. It’s the exhilaration of a skydive without a parachute or plane.

City Centre Mirdif, Sun to Wed noon to 10pm, Thur noon to 11pm, Fri and Sat 10am to 11pm. Dhs220. Tel: (04) 2316292.

3. Enlist as a paintball soldier

Remember when you used to be mummy’s little soldier? Well, you can pretend to be one again thanks to the spectacular paintballing zones at Al Forsan. Choose the number of colourful paintballs you require; 300 usually covers it. You’ll then be given all the necessary padding to make you look and feel like Rambo. Aim of the game? Make it rain bullets and don’t get hit. A 40-minute game costs Dhs210 per person.

4. Drive a Ferrari

While you may never be able to sit behind the wheel of a real Ferrari car, nor race in an international competition, the Ferrari GT driver experience at Dubai Autodrome gets you pretty close. With incredible speed, this beast from Italy combines raw power with razor-sharp handling, guaranteed to make you feel like Lewis Hamilton, even if only for a few laps.

Dubai Autodrome, Dhs2,995. Tel: (02) 659 9800.

5. Spend the day in virtual reality

For an adrenaline-pumping variety of simulators, games and rides look no further than VR Park Dubai – the world’s largest virtual reality theme park. There are more than 30 attractions to try, ranging from state-of-the-art arcade shoot-em-ups and simulator skydiving to the exhausting Ape X showdown. Other attractions include the dizzying rollercoaster, Dubai Drone, and PAYDAY, where you can rob banks with your friends. Now you can try more for less with the new Super 7 pass – seven experiences for Dhs180 (rather than Dhs245).

The Dubai Mall, Sun to Wed 10am to midnight, Thur to Sat 10am to 1am. Tel: (04) 448 8483.

6. Tackle TEP Factor

Think of the 1990s TV show The Crystal Maze and you’ll have some idea of what you’re getting yourself into at TEP Factor. You’ll be trapped inside a closed chamber. Your strength can’t help you and there’s no assistance from the outside. Only your mind holds the key as you solve clues, puzzles and riddles against the clock. It’s geeky fun.

Bahar Plaza, JBR, Dubai, Dhs80 on weekdays, Dhs100 on weekends. Tel: (056) 404 0802.

7. Head off-road

When it comes to the great outdoors, the GCC desert is a truly unique adventure playground. With massive areas of rarely-visited wilderness to explore, dune and wadi bashing can be some of the best ways to unleash your inner child. If you’re not an experienced off-roader, team up with someone who is before making a beeline for Liwa and its incredible dunes.

8. Captain a plane

Fancying piloting an Emirates A380? Of course you do. Head to The Dubai Mall where Emirates has an A380 simulator complete with cockpit and passenger seats. An experienced trainer will teach you how to take off and land your jumbo jet at 12 of the world’s busiest airports in a variety of weather conditions. It’s the ultimate video game for grown-ups. A 30-minute session costs Dhs300.

The Dubai Mall, Sun to Wed 10am to 10pm, Thur to Sat 10am to midnight. Tel: (04) 3882915.

9. Try a wacky spa treatment 

Kozma and Kozma doesn’t just do your standard file-and-polish manis and pedis – oh no. We’re talking candy land pedicures where you can squish your toes in “gumballs” and have your feet massaged with chocolate; snowman manicures where you soak your hands in cooling “snow” and build your very own little frosty friend; as well as manis and pedis inspired by mermaids, unicorns and other mythical creatures.

Villa 1134 (next to Umm Suqeim Veterinary Centre), Al Wasl Road. Sat to Thur 10am to 9pm (closed Mondays), Fri 11am to 8pm. Tel: (056) 554 4534.

10. Soar over Dubai on a zip-line

Get to grips with the world’s longest inner-city zip-line. Launch yourself off a building in JBR 170 metres-high before drinking in glorious views of Dubai Marina as you sail, hawk-like, through the air. A truly bracing way to appreciate the city. Tickets for adults cost from Dhs650.

XLine, Dubai Marina, 10am to 6pm Sun to Thurs, 10am to 7pm Fri and Sat, Dhs650 single, Dhs1200 couple.

 11. Slip ‘n’ slide across the sea

When you’re a kid, there’s nothing more thrilling than a good old-fashioned playground. Swings, slides and your friends in tow are the recipe for simple pleasure. Take this tried and tested formula to the next level at Aqua Fun, the world’s largest inflatable water park at JBR where you can slip, slide, bounce and jump around on 74 inflatable obstacles in all shapes and sizes. Booking is recommended.

JBR Beach, Mon to Sun 9am to 6.30pm, Dhs150 adults, Dhs120 children.

12. Act silly at Mr Miyagi’s

Everyone is a just a little bit kooky at this Asian hotspot in the Media One Hotel. Mr Miyagi’s is famed for its crowd karaoke-fuelled brunches and Thai bucket bar drinks. Weekly promotions include a ladies’ night complete with an interactive show and silent disco Tuesdays. Look out for ‘the den’ where you can glitter up and play prosecco pong. In short, you’re guaranteed to have a great, if slightly wacky, night out here.

Level 9, Media One Hotel, daily 12pm to late. Tel: (04) 4207489.

13. Smash skittles at The 44

Whether a player or spectator, there’s lots of fun to be had at The 44. The Habtoor City sports bar is filled with TV screens showing live sports from around the globe, plus you can get in on the action with dartsboards, pool tables or try your hand at bowling at their two-lane bowling alley.

Hilton Dubai Al Habtoor City, Habtoor City, daily 12pm to 2am. Tel: (054) 5811758.

14. Get bouncy at a trampoline park

Make like House Of Pain, and jump around on indoor trampolines at Bounce. There are fitness classes and family-friendly bookings as well as a swish mezzanine café where you can chill out and watch other people think they’re bouncing at the Olympics.

Building 32, 4B Street, Al Quoz 1, Dubai, Mondays, 7.15pm to midnight, Dhs80 per hour, Dhs120 for three hours. Tel: (04) 321 1400.

15. Don’t just watch a movie, live it

3D films are for old fogies. It’s all about 4DX now. These cinemas heighten every jump, jolt, gush, crash, bang and wallop you see on screen to cartoonish proportions, all designed a more immersive way of watching movies. The 4DX Vox screen at Mall Of The Emirates is kitted out with smoke machines, strobe lights, and mechanical chairs that move in every direction, all synchronised perfectly with the film. Make sure you’re ready for the ride…

Mall Of The Emirates, Dubai. Dhs137. Tel: (600) 599 905. UAE.

16. Wreak havoc in Al Quoz 

Making a mess is part and parcel of being a kid. Sadly, it’s not socially acceptable to start destroying a room as an adult, except at The Smash Room. Filled with old furniture, TVs, laptops, and mannequins collected from donations, everything at The Smash Room is expendable: go ahead, grab a chair and chuck it across the room. Throw a plant at the computer screen. Stomp on the telephone. Grab a cricket bat and show that lamp who’s boss.

Umm Sequim Road, Al Quoz 4, Dubai, Sun to Wed 11am to 10pm, Thur to Sat 9am to 11pm. Tel: (058) 1982323.

17. Putt at glow in the dark golf

The name hardly rolls off the tongue but 3D Blacklight Minigolf Dubai is roaring fun with 18 perilous holes that all glow in the dark. The floor, walls, and ceilings of the entire course have been hand painted by talented 3D artists. It’s wacky, silly, and also pretty tricky.

Bahar Plaza Level, JBR, Dubai Marina. Tel: (04) 45657621.

18. Bend reality at The Museum Of Illusions

Part of a global network of museums, The Museum Of Illusions is dedicated to teaching kids big and small how to see the world differently. Stand upside down in a room, get lost within a kaleidoscope, and serve your head on a platter. There are also more immersive set-ups, like an entire room that dramatically alters your perception of size, a mirror that doesn’t reflect, and others that make your body appear to disappear.

Al Seef by Meraas, Bur Dubai, Sun to Wed 10am to 10pm, Thur 10am to midnight. Dhs80 adults, Dhs60 children. Tel: (04) 357 3999.

19. Go tree surfing in Mushrif Park

Climbing trees is cool but surfing across them is even cooler. The team at Aventura Parks will lead you and your mates on a daring experience through the forest canopy, complete with 16 challenges including a sweet surf slide across the Ghaf trees. Ropes provided (phew!).

Mushrif Park, Sun to Wed 10am to 9pm, Thur to Sat 9am to 10pm, Dhs167 adults, Dhs134 for children. Tel: (052) 178 7616.

20. Experience Crazyland at Base Dubai

Two Dubai party powerhouses collide for this new Saturday night event at d3 superclub Base. The part-jungle, part-underwater themed night set-up is nothing short of a journey to wonderland. Think, eye-bulging pyrotechnics and kaleidoscopic colours on show.

Dubai Design District, 10pm to 4am, Saturdays. Tel: (055) 313 4999.

21. Make Wavehouse your funhouse

A bowling alley, retro gaming arcade, climbing wall and even a surf machine – what’s not to love about Wavehouse, the brand-new bar-cum-entertainment destination at Atlantis, The Palm? Overlooking Aquaventure Waterpark, guests can opt for a chilled day in the sun grazing through the gastropub dishes, or play their way through the afternoon to the sounds of live music and DJ sets.

Atlantis, The Palm, Palm Jumeirah, Sat to Wed noon to 1am, Thur and Fri 12pm to 3am. Tel: (04) 426 2000.

22. Skipper your own boat

Owning a speedboat is extremely expensive, usually prohibitively so, but renting one – albeit a small one – and cruising around Dubai’s most famous landmarks is within your grasp. You can captain your own boat on a self-drive Hero Odysea 90-minute sightseeing tour. The boats are built in Dubai to be fast, fun but completely un-tippable.

Fishing Harbour 2, Umm Suqeim, Dhs690.

23. Channel Tony Hawk at XDubai skate park

Strap on those elbow pads – it’s time to relive your teenage kickflips. The XDubai crew opened a Venice Beach-style outdoor skate park a couple of years ago. Open to all, it’s located on Kite Beach complete with two bowls, 11 bowled corners and several street elements to test your skills. Private skateboarding lessons start at Dhs175.

Kite Beach, Dubai. Sun to Thur 3pm to 11.30pm, Fri and Sat 8am to noon and 3pm to 11.30pm. Tel: (056) 831 2349.

24. Embrace the frat life

A play room complete with cuddly toys, a garden housing wooden benches, and a games room covered in ‘90s posters make House Party Bar a must-visit for a nostalgic night out. Guests can drink out of red plastic cups in the kitchen, tackle the giant Jenga in the garden, and mess around in the ball pit.

Fairmont Dubai, Shiekh Zayed Road, Mon and Thur 6pm to 3am, Sun, Tue, Wed and Sat 6pm to 2am, Fri 4pm to 3am. Tel: (050) 995 5400.

25. Head to the fairground

Every Thursday the Zero Gravity garden transforms into a fairground, complete with arcade games and roaming performers. Between trips to the buffet, guests can play giant Jenga, ping-pong and Connect Four.

Skydive Dubai Drop Zone, Dubai Marina, Thur 8pm to midnight, Dhs275 ladies, Dhs325 guys. Tel: (04) 399 0009.

26. Belt out your favourite teen hits

Where better to release your inner teen than in a private karaoke booth belting out your favourite sing-along hits? At Lucky Voice, expect bi-weekly party brunches and ladies’ nights. Alternatively, you can round up 10 of your mates for a Wednesday or Thursday sing-song and receive a litre of wine, 10 beers and three pizzas for free. Hairbrush mic optional.

Grand Millennium Hotel, Barsha Heights, Dubai. Tel: (04) 447 8010.

27. Play a hole new game

Combining football and golf into one novelty game, FootGolf players loosely follow the same rules as golf, but instead of teeing off on a course with a club, you kick a football and aim for an albeit slightly bigger hole on the green. Give or take several off-course kicks, two bunker plunders, and one horrific lake plunge, we managed to complete the course in an hour, just in time for a sundowner on the terrace. A big kid thumbs up.

The Address Montgomerie Dubai, daily 6.30am to 10pm, Dhs125. Tel: (04) 363 1209.

28. Ride a hoverboard

This is about as close as you’re going to get to riding that hoverboard made famous in Back To The Future II, which, let’s face it, everyone wanted – and still does. A spin-off from the flyboard, hoverboards are longer with the jet engine on only one side. It feels more like a floating skateboard where you travel horizontally across the sea. A 20-minute session costs Dhs315.

Jumeirah 1, Fishing Harbour, Dubai, Dhs315. Tel: (055) 157 8393

29. Ride the world’s fastest rollercoaster

Do you feel the need for speed? Formula Rossa covers 1.3 miles in 90 seconds. If you have time, queue for that all-important front seat where you’ll be handed a pair of plastic goggles for safety – it’s not called the world’s fastest rollercoaster for nothing. Strap in and wait for the insurmountable force that propels you forward.
Your brain will feel like it’s been lodged out of place, but for the ultimate big kid adventurers, it’s the coolest ride on the planet.

Ferrari World, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, tickets from Dhs295.

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