The best family-friendly road trip adventures to enjoy in the UAE
Sponsored by Audi Q7: Happiness is an open road. Beg, borrow or buy a motor, stock up on snacks, buckle in the whole fam, and start exploring the best family-friendly activities the Emirates have to offer…
The key ingredients to a perfect family adventure are sun, good grub, welcoming resorts, plenty of waterslides, and a sturdy motor with a big fuel tank. The UAE has all that and plenty more and now is the perfect time to plan a local-bound trip to remember. There is certainly something for everyone, whether you’re travelling with grandma, your kids, nieces and nephews, the family dog, or all of the above. And, to make planning as easy as possible, here’s our ultimate must-dos for your trip.
The Green Planet’s sloth brunch
We’ve seen some wild things on the Dubai brunch scene, but never before have we man-handled a python over pancakes. Until the launch of The Green Planet’s Picnic Brunch with Sloth and Friends. It’s a wholesome, well-organised affair, with plenty of space between tables, a family-friendly menu, and animal encounters that your little ones will love.
The Green Planet, Fri and Sat 10am to 1pm. Dhs175 for adults, Dhs49 for children (under 5s free). thegreenplanetdubai.com/en/offers/picnic-brunch
Visit Hatta Wadi Hub
This outdoor adventure centre (open daily from 8am to 6pm) is where you’ll find Hatta’s popular airstream trailers and eco-friendly lodges, both brilliant for overnight stays surrounded by nature. But it’s also home to a handful of fun activities, including zorbing, archery, a net walkway, mountain biking trails, a drop-in water slide, and a brand-new tube sliding ride.
Hatta Wadi Hub, located off the Dubai-Hatta road, 8.30am to 6pm, Tel: (800) 637227. @visit.hatta
Drive and camp inside Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve
The DDCR was previously off-limits to campers in their own vehicles. But with Sand Sherpa, you can bundle the kids into your SUV and camp. You’ll learn how to navigate the terrain in your car. The crew then sets up your own trailer, featuring all camping essentials, which can accommodate a family of five. All you need is food, drinks and bedding. Trips start from Dhs1,950.
Meet the dinosaurs at Dubai Garden Glow
Dubai Garden Glow has reopened for a sixth winter season and is a hit with families each year. Aside from the colourful wonderland of glow-in-the-dark lights, there’s a dinosaur park with over 100 models of prehistoric creatures, which move and roar.
Zabeel Park, daily 5pm to 10.30pm, Dhs65, under-threes free. dubaigardenglow.com
Pizza fest at Dino’s
If there’s one cuisine that appeals to all ages, it’s Italian. For a crowd-pleasing brunch that the smalls will love just as much as the adults, take your tribe to Dino’s Bistro Italian. The Friday brunch includes a kid-approved mix of starters, pizzas, pasta and desserts
Pearl Rotana Capital Centre, Fri noon to 4pm. Dhs200 with mixed drinks, Dhs215 grape and bubbles, Dhs165 with soft drinks, ages 6 to 12 half-price.
Tel: (02) 307 5551. @pearlrotana
Walk the roof at Ferrari World Abu Dhabi
Thrill-seeking families should hightail it to Ferrari World, where you can take part in the all-new rooftop walk or zipline adventures. The zipline, which sails through one of the loops of the Flying Aces rollercoaster, offers a two-track system, so family members can race each other.
Yas Island, Tue to Sat noon to 8pm. Entry from Dhs155, zipline Dhs95, roof walk Dhs125 (both for Dhs175). ferrariworldabudhabi.com
Camp in Jebel Hafit Desert Park
For a hassle-free, eco-friendly camping trip, Jebel Hafit Desert Park in the UNESCO-listed heritage site of Al Ain offers a choice of tent styles, including luxury dome tents with showers and private bathrooms, bubble tents with an external private bathroom, and traditional tents with shared facilities.
Jebel Hafit Desert Park, Al Ain, from Dhs400. visitabudhabi.ae
Take a farm tour from a tractor
Struggling to get your children to eat their greens? Take them along to Emirates Bio Farm, where they can learn all about locally grown fruits and vegetables during a tractor tour of the farm. They’ll even have the chance to harvest their own vegetables.
Emirates Bio Farm, Dhs35, under 6 free. Tel: (0) 55 3857052. emiratesbiofarm.com
Dine at The Falls
Enjoy access to the Radisson Blu Resort’s pool and beach when you book the Friday Family Lunch Buffet at Cafe at the Falls. The restaurant has a breezy indoor-outdoor vibe, with a dedicated kids’ menu and children’s activities.
Radisson Blu Resort, Corniche Road, Sharjah, Fri 12.30pm to 4pm. Dhs150 including soft drinks, Dhs75 ages 6 to 12. Tel: (06) 5657777. radissonhotels.com
Play in the rain (room)
Kids and adults alike will love the immersive experience at the Sharjah Rain Room, which allows you to walk through a rain shower, without getting wet. Tip: younger kids may cop a few splashes as they wander through the sensor-controlled raindrops, so have a change of clothes handy.
Rain Room, Al Majarrah, Sharjah, Sat to Thur 9am to 10pm, Fri 4pm to 11pm. Dhs25 adults, Dhs15 students, under 5 free. sharjahart.org
Book a night in a sustainable hotel
Al Badayer Oasis by Mysk is the perfect staycation spot if you’re looking for adventure and a dose of Emirati culture. The stunning desert eco-retreat is located inside a traditional Arabian fort, with all the modern comforts you need. The resort also offers customised desert experiences such as dune bashing, quad biking, horse riding and desert safaris.
Al Badayer Oasis, Sharjah, from Dhs600. Tel: (06) 5560777. myskhotels.com
Experience Bedouin life in the mountains
Take a guided tour to explore Stone Age caves and ancient forts at Mleiha Archaeological Centre, a fascinating enclave in the heart of the Sharjah desert. Horse riding, stargazing and fossil hunting are just some of the family-friendly activities on offer.
Mleiha Archaeological Centre, Dhs55 for family entry (2 adults and 3 children). Tel: (06) 8021111. discovermleiha.ae
Ras Al Khaimah
Brave the sky maze at Jebel Jais
At the Jais Adventure Peak, test your mettle on the Jais Sky Maze (Dhs75), navigating rope swings and suspended bridges 10 metres above the ground. Or take the Jais Sky Tour (Dhs200), a thrilling course of seven zip-lines ranging in length from 337m to 1km.
Jais Adventure Peak. Tel: (07) 204 6250. visitjebeljais.com
Putting the glam into glamping, the Bin Majid Beach Hotel has a series of luxury camping facilities ranging from a deluxe tent to panoramic dome suite. The resort is well equipped and the camping area is located directly next to the swimming pool. Activities include beach yoga, sea view aerobics, kite flying, kayaking, waterpark obstacle course, beach volleyball and an outdoor spa and sauna.
Longbeach Campground, Bin Majid Resort, Al Jazeera Al Hamra, Thur to Sat, from Dhs1200. Tel: (800) 5700. binmajid.com/hotels/longbeach
Survival skills with Bear Grylls
Could you or your family survive in the wilderness? For how long? The Bear Grylls Survival Camp aims to pass on the skills you may need if you are stranded in the wild. You’ll learn how to build and light a fire, how to navigate at night, and how to make a shelter. Courses run alternative Fridays and cost Dhs1,000 per person. Children aged 8 and above, welcome.
Embrace caravan life
We all love a good staycation, but if you’re on the lookout for something unique, check out Caravana Alzorah where you and your family will get to spend the night in a fully-equipped caravan right on the beach. Located in Ajman, the caravans are fitted with air conditioning, bathrooms, and depending on your booking, come with bunk beds, sofa beds, or double beds. The best bit? Each caravan comes with its own private beach and barbecue area. There’s also fishing and cycling available within close proximity to the camping site.
Caravana Alzorah, Ajman, from Dhs1,125. Tel: (0)6 749 0441. @caravana.ae
Snorkel around Snoopy Island
Pack your snorkel and swimming kit for a day spent paddling around Fujairah’s Snoopy Island, so named because of its resemblance to the cartoon dog. Set out from Sandy Beach Hotel & Resort for a snorkel around the island. You and your family can hire snorkels and kayaks from the hotel.
Umm Al Quwain
Sleep inside Dreamland Aquapark
One of the UAE’s best-kept secrets is the overnight camping possibilities at Dreamland Aquapark. Spend the day riding the flumes, chill out in the licensed pool bar, and then camp overnight either in a tent of an air-conditioned cabin from just Dhs499. That includes access to the park, a barbecue dinner and bonfire,
Spend the day at Kite Beach Center
This wonderful dog-friendly beach club has swiftly become the UAE’s most beloved hidden gem. Its straw umbrellas and haphazard beach huts give the venue a rustic charm. There’s a huge food menu, with plenty of watersport activities available. But most families come to lounge on the blue beanbags while letting their dogs play in the sea. Sometimes, there’s even live music on the beach, just to add to the holiday vibes. Entrance fees are a steal: Dhs25/50 for adults on weekdays/weekends and Dhs75 per dog.
Tried and Tested: The Motor
The Audi Q7 is a chic beast that will roar up Sheikh Zayed Road, remain agile along the winding desert roads, and feel powerful enough to bash those desert dunes when switched to off-road mode.
Programme your destination in, flick on the adaptive cruise control and watch the landscape whiz by. We were particularly enamoured with how spacious it was for both driver and passengers, the virtual cockpit screen, and its snazzy MMI touch response screens, with an infotainment display that works much like a tablet.
Despite being a people carrier, the seven-seater Audi Q7 is smooth, classy and a cracking luxury three-rowed SUV. And, when you don’t need that third row, press a magic button, the back seats fold down, and there’s ample cargo space to fit your bags, camping gear, and four-legged family member.
You can buy the Audi Q7 from Dhs274,019. Prices vary depending on vehicle specs. Book a test drive here.