30 of the best places to chill out and escape the heat in Abu Dhabi
The temperature’s rising…
Year-round sunshine is a blessing — there are very few places in the world where you can plan picnics, beach days and pool parties without having to worry about the washout of a last-minute raincheck. That being said, it’s important to have a collection of places you can count on as an entertaining refuge from the peak of the summer heat. These are just some of our favourite places to chill out in the Abu Dhabi summer.
Taking inspiration from iconic TV shows, The Crystal Maze and Fort Boyard, Prison Island – Beat the Bars is a new adventure experience now open at Abu Dhabi Mall. Set over a 1,000m² expanse, this is no escape room — it’s a network of 26 individual ‘cells’ featuring tasks each more fiendishly conundrous (shhh, that’s a word) than the last, and you’ll have to beat them all if you want to escape the island, with winner’s bragging rights.
Abu Dhabi Mall, Dhs125, @prisonisland.abudhabi.
Central is without a doubt one of the most exciting new additions to the Yas Bay waterfront. Why? It’s a triple threat — great American fast food, on site bowling within striking distance of the licensed bar and there’s a collection of modern and retro arcade games — including a full size air hockey table. You can check out our review here, but it’s a solid gold win for hot
Central, Yas Bay, Yas Island, 4pm to 12am Mon to Thurs, 12pm to 3am Fri to Sun. @central_uae
Shoot your shot
The Al Forsan International Sports Resort has some pretty amazing recreational fun times to get involved with, and whilst a lot of it is staged on the outdoor grounds (including the karting track, paintball arena and archery range), there are indoor pursuits too. Take the shooting club for example, visitors line their on a range of firearms including handguns, rifles, sniper rifles, a bow and arrow – and even a virtual VirTra 300-powered shooting simulator.
Al Forsan International Sports Resort, Khalifa City. Tel: (800) 9900, alforsan.com
Plummet and summit
Inside Yas-based adventuredrome, Clymb — you can skydive and scale up an artificial Everest beneath the snug-comfort of a steel sky. The venue is home to a truly epic wind tunnel that lets you live out all the thrills of hurling yourself out of a plane, except at a few metres above sea-level and without having to put faith in square metres of voluminous nylon. Prefer your ascents a bit more hands-on? There is a huge collection of climbing walls, and boulder-edging to pit your finger strength against. It’s our nation’s spiritual home of the war on gravity.
Clymb, Yas Mall (by Ferrari World entrance), Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, Sunday to Thursday 11am to 9pm, Friday and Saturday noon to 11pm, basic climb package Dhs120 for 60 minutes, Combo tickets from Dhs315. Tel: (600) 511115, clymbabudhabi.com
Under the sea
When it’s all looking a bit scorched earthy outside, why not head to Abu Dhabi’s stunning underwater kingdom, The National Aquarium. In addition to the eight themed zones; an XXL reticulated python known only as ‘Super Snake’; back stage tours; and marine animal rehabilitation projects, there are also a range of marine life meet and greets. You can, for example, have an ‘Ocean Encounter’ feeding sharks measuring up to two metres in length for just Dhs180. And that price includes access to the ‘Aquarium Journey’.
The National Aquarium Abu Dhabi, Al Qana, Al Maqta, Abu Dhabi, general admission from Dhs105. Tel: (02) 418 6666. thenationalaquarium.ae
One of our favourite ways to dodge the spiralling centigrade points, is in the refined climate-controlled air, of the cinema. And there are some huge summer blockbusters to look forward to. Curious about what’s coming? Check out our pick of the top 10 blockbusters hitting screens this summer.
They say you can’t run away from your problems, but you can put on a headset and blast them into oblivion. Groundbreaking Virtual Reality (VR) experience, Zero Latency, is now available at The Galleria Al Maryah Island. And it represents a true levelling up in gaming tech. The free-roam multiplayer experience allows teams of up to eight mates to fight off waves of brain-nibbling zombies. Gone are the cumbersome cables and wires of the old school VR world, now you can explore the open gamespace with absolute freedom. If you’re not down for duelling the undead, you can also take on a special virtual version of Ubisoft tropical Island caper, Far Cry 3. And for more cerebral fun, there’s the engaging puzzle conundrums of Engineerium.
The Galleria Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi. Opens July 27. Tel:(0)2 493 7400, from Dhs150. @zerolatencyvrae
The long dark knight
Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi was your top pick for ‘Favourite Attraction’ in the What’s On Abu Dhabi Awards 2021. And we felt that. All of our favourite DCU superheroes (and villains), Tom, Jerry, Buggs, Daffy, Tweetie, The Flintstones, and backed up by some spectacularly wild rides – there are the expertly choreographed shows.
Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi Dhs310 for adult and child. Tel: (600) 511 115. @wbworldad
Located between the Family Park and the Level 2 food court of The Galleria Al maryah Island, there’s a fun zone that includes the kind of entertainment activities that really make you question your adulthood. Diggers Lab for example, is for the kids that are all about that backhoe life. Or even just the ball pit life. It’s an edutaining opportunity, to get behind the controls of a fun-sized construction vehicle, and carve out some epic fun times. Dhs40 for 10 minutes. At Drifty young speed-seekers can leap into the cockpit of an electric car, built for that mercurial automotive artform — drifting. It’s all set up to provide a safe, as well as insanely enjoyable simulated track experience. Dhs40 for 10 minutes. And Fun Rider allows younger children to pilot an LED animal-themed bike, padded and softened with plush material. The mini vehicles are also strong enough to carry the weight of parents or guardians. Dhs30 for 10 minutes.
The Galleria Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi, 10am to 10pm, combo pass from Dhs100. Tel: (02) 493 7400, @thegalleriauae
Fall in Louvre with culture
Abu Dhabi is home to a treasure trove of galleries, musems and culturally significant awesomeness. We recommend you take a quick look at our guide to some of the local highbrow highlights. But if we were to pick one, it’d be Louvre Abu Dhabi. In addition to housing one of the most beautifully curated, story-telling collections of art and objets-de-wow, they host movie nights, there’s a children’s museum, paint and grape nights, special exhibitions (right now you can catch Dragon and Phoenix: Centuries of Exchange between Chinese and Islamic worlds) and even guided drawing tours. Held every Wednesday and lead by the Museum Educator you’ll learn insider skills, artistic trickery and see a different side to this world-class museum.
Louvre Abu Dhabi, Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi, every Wed 4.30pm to 6.30pm, Dhs81.50 (includes admission to museum, usually Dhs63). Tel: (02) 6736 688. louvreabudhabi.ae
Ahead full STEAM
National Geographic Ultimate Explorer, in The Galleria Al Maryah Island is an edutainment complex offering seven exciting attractions aimed at captivating kiddliwinks and stealthily uploading STEAM learning in them, all whilst they’re having one ‘world’s largest mammal’ of a time. There are two VR/AR experiences, including Space Jump, where snack-sized astronauts will be put through a training programme to see if they’ve got the gusto to thrive in the cavernous vacuum of space. And Recon River, which puts little explorers on a raft — sending them downstream in search of rare and exotic animals to capture in their augmented viewfinders.
National Geographic Ultimate Explorer, The Galleria Al Maryah Island, Sat to Wed 10am to 10pm, Thu and Fri 10am to midnight, from Dhs80. Tel: (052) 403 7166, @natgeoultimateexplorerad
Soft play, hard fun
Say bonjour to the second Abu Dhabi location of AirManiax right in the heart of the capital’s excitement hub, at Yas Mall. It’s a gigantic indoor kids’ entertainment megaplex arriving, mercifully, just in time for the return of summer heat. Located on the ground floor of the mall, next to the Grand Prix entrance, this intelligently designed adventure complex is now open and offers multiple themed zones and attractions for all age groups of kiddlywinks. .
Air Maniax Abu Dhabi is open now at Yas Mall, daily 10 am to midnight, prices from Dhs85 for 60 minutes. Tel: (02) 635 2544, airmaniax.booknow
Highway to the Xtreme Zone
The Galleria Al Maryah Island offers 44,200 sqft of recreational adventure. There’s the synapse-jangling thrills of electronic entertainment; all the button-mashing fun of the video games arcade; and intense virtual reality (VR) experiences. Prefer your activities a little more analog? You can pick up sticky splits at their 12-lane bowling alley, double-bounce your bestie at the trampoline park, beat the peak on the climbing wall, or take on the Tag Arena’s timed obstacle course for leaderboard bragging rights.
The Galleria Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi, Saturday to Wednesday 10am to 10pm, Thursday to Friday 10am to midnight. Tel: (02) 493 7400, thegalleria.ae
Rock the Qasr
One of the most important cultural centres in the whole of the UAE, Qasr Al Hosn is a National Monument. Once the seat of the nation’s government, a home to the Al Nahyan family and the site of a national archive — the fort and watchtower (which dates to around 1790) now looks over its role as historian for the UAE. It’s also just opened a brand new House of Artisans component which offers guests the opportunity to learn about, and even try their hand at, traditional Emirati arts and crafts.
Al Hosn, Sat to Thu 10am to 7pm, Fri 2pm to 7pm, tickets Dhs30. Tel: (02) 697 6400, qasralhosn.platinumlist.net
It’s coming dome…
A few leagues up from ‘jumpers for goalposts’ this inflatable 5-a-side dome with 5G (no tin foil hats please) pitch belongs to 321Sports, on Abu Dhabi’s adventure island — Hudayriyat. You and your squad can rent the pitch, along with a tidy collection of other sporting courts and amenities.
Hudayriyat Island, Dhs520 per hour. Tel: (02) 691 0256, 321sports.ae
From the jump
Get the jump on your week by heading to Marina Mall’s extreme trampoline park, Bounce — and picking up one of their special passes. Inside there’s a Free-Jump arena; Slam Dunk zone; you can play Dodgeball; find the origin of fun in the Big Bag; dare you face The Wall?; or dive into the upgraded adrenalin of the X-Park?; Just here for the gains? You can also get involved with some Bounce Fit; there are also the elevated thrills of the Zip Line, the Quick Drop and Speed Slide. Prices start at 85 for adults but there’s a premium unlimited day pass (access all areas) charged at Dhs250 for adults and Dhs180 for kids.
Bounce, Marina Mall, Sat to Wed 10am to 10pm, Thu and Fri 10am to midnight. Tel: (04) 3 211 400, @bouncemideast
One of the world’s largest mosques, this inspirational building was commissioned by Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and was completed in just over a decade. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque has space for 40,000 worshipers each day and pulls design features from Turkey, Morocco, Pakistan and Egypt, and other Islamic countries. There are 1,096 amethyst-and-jasper-embedded columns, 82 white marble domes — one of which features beautiful gold lead calligraphy of Quranic text on the interior, reflective pools, Swarovski chandeliers, the world’s largest hand-woven carpet, a breathtaking prayer hall, and a courtyard with one of the world’s largest marble mosaics.
Al Maqta’a, daily 11am to 11pm, free. Book your visit at visit.szgmc.gov.ae
Abu Dhabi is all about the cafes, there’s literally thousands of them across the emirate, each with their own particular perks. But if you fancy indulging in some Java lava amongst some particularly ‘extra’ surrounds, have a pour through our guide to the most surreal cafe experiences in Abu Dhabi. There’s a cafe made to look like the inside of an aeroplane cabin, a cafe where you can pet owls, get your hair cut, dine in 2D and even creat a piece of art. Art House Cafe is a venue that celebrates the creative spark, letting you can go full Picasso on a plate for Dhs20, there’s the option to paint masks (Dhs30) or knock up a miniature brick painting (Dhs10).
Al Huwelat St, Bateen Area, Opp Al Bateen Villa No 15, 10am to midnight. Tel: (02) 666 0175. @arthousecafead
Ferrari World Abu Dhabi is home to record-breaking rollercoasters, a connoisseur’s collection of classic cars, family-friendly thrill rides, a huge zip-line and roof-walk adventure attraction and a series of fun festivals throughout the year. There’s little wonder why you voted this house of the dancing horse your Favourite Attraction at the What’s On Abu Dhabi Awards 2022.
Yas Island, open daily midday to 8pm, adults Dhs310, kids Dhs240. @ferrariworldabudhabi
Be ware house
This homegrown arts centre seeks to unearth and nurture local and regional talent. Warehouse421 provides a space that educates and inspires artists and art-enthusiasts, with engaging workshops and of course, essential enwisening exhibitions.
Mina Zayed, Tue to Sun 10am to 8pm (closed Monday), free. Tel: (02) 6768 803, @warehouse421
Get ’em mall
Malls are an inalienable part of life in the UAE and Abu Dhabi has some belters. And if it’s bargains ye seek we’re pretty sure (although it’s not been confirmed yet), that the Abu Dhabi Summer Shopping Season will return this year (usually from around June until September-ish) — typically including sales of up to 80 per cent off, in more than 3,500 stores, across 20 of the emirate’s malls. And malls aren’t just for shopping, there’s a ton of entertainment and dining adventures to be taken advantage of on the inside too.
Have a sophis-tea-cated afternoon
Nothing says ‘look ma, I made it’ like afternoon tea in an actual palace. With signature gold cappuccinos. Seriously. This isn’t the cheapest option out there at Dhs485 per couple, but the spread is nothing less than legitimately lavish. Your sandwich options are a few steps up from Subway too, including such regal flexes as lobster and caviar. The pastries too, are true articles of Parisian beauty. The finest example of a ‘treat you’self’ afternoon tea we can think of.
Emirates Palace, Corniche Road W, Al Ras Al Akhdar, Abu Dhabi, 2pm to 6pm, Dhs485. Tel: (02) 690 7999, mandarinoriental.com
Know your wErth
Etizan the colossal fitness complex at hotel Erth (formally known as the Armed Forces Officers Club and Hotel) is legitimately stacked with an Olympic range of sporting activities including a 3,500 sqm gym, tennis courts, multiple football pitches (including a fully FIFA-certified 11-a-side pitch), a boxing studio, martial arts space, an eight-lane-indoor-tournament-spec pool, facilities for gymnastics, aerobics, squash, bowling, track and field, volleyball, basketball, shooting and Jiu Jitsu. But something they do offer a more bijoux racket in, is everybody’s fave new court sport — padel tennis, with rental from Dhs240.
Erth, Khor Al Maqta, gym day passes from Dhs151, padel court rental from Dhs240, football pitch rental from Dhs504. Tel: (02) 497 5229, Etizan.ae
Take a Dhs15 tumble inside this mall
Located on level three of WTC Mall’s The Hub – you can gain entrance to what might just be the cheapest thrill ride in the city, a pair of slides that make up the attraction called: Velocity. It only lasts a few seconds, but don’t judge — at Dhs15 (or Dhs35 for two goes and camera rental) — for a stylish tumble down a four storey drop, you really can’t go wrong.
World Trade Centre Mall Abu Dhabi, 10am to 10pm, from Dhs15. @wtcad
Mi Qasr su Qasr
The grand ‘Palace of the Nation’, Qasr Al Watan lies at one end of the city’s main Corniche, caught between the unyielding blues of the Arabian Gulf and the chasm of skyscrapers that define the city’s skyline. It is by all measures a newcomer on the UAE’s heritage scene, having opened its ornate doors to the public in 2019, but it already commands a place amonst its most precious cultural gems. Entry to the attractions is just Dhs6o and contained within its white granite walls, you’ll find a blend of educational and inspirational experiences — architectural masterwork; a library with storey-high book shelves; the great hall; the seat of the UAE’s cabinet; a ‘house of knowledge’ learning hub; exhbits telling the story of the nation’s rich and nuanced history. There’s also a Palace in Motion Sound and Light show (adults Dhs25, kids Dhs12), which now takes place daily. An entertainment extravaganza that illuminates tales from the nation’s past, present and future.
Al Ras Al Akhdar, now open daily between 10am and 6.45pm Dhs60, kids Dhs30. Book on qasralwatan.ae
A bit of in-spa-ration
Found on the idyllic shores of Saadiyat Island – this little piece of pampering paradise comes with an indulgent blend of old and new world treatments. You can for example, get involved with a detoxifying and rejuvenating lipocell sculptor session (Dhs770 for 90 minutes), or take part in the time-honoured ritual of ancient Thai massage (Dhs770 for 90 minutes), and their Day Retreat represents excellent value at Dhs1,700. Pro tip: Marriott Bonvoy members (it’s free to join) get 20 per cent off. For red hot spa deals, check out our full guide.
The St. Regis Saadiyat Island. Tel: (02) 498 8996, @stregissaadiyatisland
Manarat maketh man
The name when translated into English from Arabic means ‘a place of enlightenment’. Manarat Al Saadiyat is the hang space of choice for a cool selection of temporary and more permanent curations. The annual Abu Dhabi Art fair is held here, there’s an epic outdoor events terrace, a café and brasserie, three galleries, a photography studio, an art studio, a 250-seat auditorium (which offers themed movie nights) and a gift shop.
Saadiyat Island, daily 10am to 8pm, exhibition entrance fee Dhs30 per person. Tel: (0)2 657 5800. manaratalsaadiyat.ae
Onward, to adventure
Located in the Rabdan end of Abu Dhabi, the work on the mega entertainment and leisure project, Al Qana continues at pace with its grand opening, we’re told, happening at some point later this year. Adrenark is set to offer a wide range of fun and energy-expending facilities including a large indoor park. Adventuretainment activities will include wall-running; dodgeball; foam pit frolicking; trampoline double bouncing; parkour; ziplining; roller skating and more.
Also located in Al Qana, Pixel will be the largest gaming hub of its type in Abu Dhab and include the latest evolution of Location-Based Entertainment (LBE). In addition to futuristic VR tech, the venue will also operate the first certified eSports (that’s competitive gaming for any noobs out there) academy in the region.
That’s snow business
The enchanted-forest themed Snow Abu Dhabi was previously scheduled for completion in the last part of this year, and it’s being trailed as ‘the region’s largest snow park’. Construction is well underway at its location inside the USD1.2billon Reem Mall project, on Reem Island. The attraction will span across a huge 100,000 sq ft area, divided into distinct whimsical zones. We can look forward to themed-characters and 13 thrilling rides and attractions, including an enchanted tree, a snowflake garden, crystal carousel, ice labyrinth, tobogganing and a shovel-ton more. It doesn’t matter if the weather outside is frightful. The park will be kept at a rosy-nosed -2ºC, with a 500mm covering of snow (more than enough for beefy snowball building) offering a year-round chill spot in this, our beloved land of the eternal sun.