23 epic things to do in Abu Dhabi this long National Day weekend

Waving the flags high and proud…

Please join us in wishing the UAE a very happy 51st birthday. It’s looking great. And if you’re looking for ways to celebrate, we’ve got ways to make your long weekend look great too.

Thursday, December 1

A shot from the barrel

There are four World Cup games taking place on Thursday, Croatia vs Belgium and Morocco vs Canada at 7pm, then Japan vs Spain and Costa Rica vs Germany at 11pm. We’d recommend heading to Lock, Stock & Barrel is a year-round home to epic sporting fun, so it makes sense that this Abu Dhabi legend is set to be one of the biggest and best places to be during the World Cup. Promising to be loud, wild and crammed with big game atmosphere, across the huge sporting tournament, fans can expect live music, incredible deals, and overall fantastic vibes at Lock, Stock & Barrel. Huge projectors, screens everywhere, and festival-level partying mean that the month-long football frenzy is borderline guaranteed to score you a brilliant time. Heading up the capital’s team sheet – we have the Yas Bay venue, barely a year old — but already an MVP on Abu Dhabi’s entertainment circuit. Of course LSB will also have incredible deals and promotions on food and drink — because that’s what match winners do. There’ll be happy hour during certain games, allowing you to net 50 per cent off on selected drinks.

Lock, Stock and Barrel, Yas Bay, Yas Island, open daily from midday to 3am until round 16 of the World Cup. @lockstockuae

Shore why not

With an average of 1,052 days of sun each year (we guesstimated, don’t look it up), Abu Dhabi has always been a strong pull for beach seekers around the world. There’s also the fact that Abu Dhabi itself is made up of sandy islands, meaning — ratios, there’s more surface area shoreline to top up that tan than your average beach destination. And there are some spectacular public beaches dotted across the many coastal areas of our emirate, but some of our favourites include: Saadiyat Island public beach, there really is no stretch of shimmering sand in the UAE quite like it, rugged dunes, native turtles and dolphins, turquoise waters, and wave swells — it really is a straight 10; Corniche beach is super convenient for Downtown dwellers, and packed with family friendly activities as well as a smorgasbord of dining options; Al Bateen beach is nearly 1km stretch of blue flag sandy lushness, there’s a playground and several sport courts to keep you and the little ones entertained too; finally, the newcomer — Hudayriyat public beach, in addition to the forever-blue horizon, highly Insta-appropriate Hudayriyat sign, and gym equipment — you have the island’s whole world of leisure, dining, and entertainment facilities within walking distance.

Friday, December 2

Ripe for the picking

ripe market

One of our favourite homegrown brands is returning to Abu Dhabi. Ripe Market Al Maryah Island is launching on National Day weekend, December 2 from 3pm to 10pm, and will then take place every Friday and Saturday. All guests can expect vibrant food, entertainment and covetous craft trinkets all set to the soothing backdrop of the sea every weekend.

Ripe Market, Al Maryah Island Abu Dhabi, Fri Dec 2 3pm to 10pm. Tel: (0)55 543 1282, ripeme.com

Spot the difference

Spot has a number of food truck hubs throughout the UAE, but two of its Abu Dhabi locations have netted their own World Cup fan zone. Both Al Shamkha and Neimah, will be showing all the matches with giant screens, live entertainment, comfy outdoor seating and the easy pre-ordering snack and drinks through the Spot Drive Thu App. On Dec 2 and 3, there’ll also be Emirati cultural celebrations including the traditional Al Ayala dance and piping hot cups of Karak. What’s On the menu? Food from such bg name local brands as SALT, Krush Burger, Wingstop, DOH, Saddle and more.

Perks of the Palace

emirates palace

Emirates Palace is hosting a collection of special National Day culinary adventures. There are special afternoon teas (Dhs485 for two), a family picnic in the lush gardens (from Dhs350) – the perfect spot to take in the year of the 51st Air Show, and fireworks. The best ways to catch this carnival of colour is with Talea’s special five-course menu collaboration with Alessandro Miocchi (of Rome’s Retrobottega), at Dhs750; or another five-course meal being hosted at Martabaan (from Dhs350), elevated food, a privileged fourth floor perch and dramatic sky fire lighting up the cosmos

Emirates Palace, West Corniche Road, Friday December 2, from Dhs350. @emiratespalace

Stay happy

Saadiyat Rotana Resort & Villas has a full 51 days of celebrations (see what they did there) for the UAE’s 51st birthday. You can get room rates at this ultra luxe desert island hotel from Dhs1,499*, and if you book bed and breakfast, you’ll automaticaly get an upgrade to half board, also included are Dhs100 spa vouchers for discounted pampering at the award-winning Zen The Spa. Got kids with you? The Aladdin’s Cave Kids Club offers some incredible ways to keep the little ones entertained (and net you some much needed down time).

Call: (02) 697 0000, rotanatimes.com

This is Sparta

Taking place on the UAE’s 51st National Day weekend, the World Championships is one of sport’s most punishing challenges — the Spartan Trials, lands in the Abu Dhabi desert. The gruelling obstacle-littered courses will take the Spartan tribe through the stunning Martian-esque dunescape of Al Wathba.

2022 Abu Dhabi Spartan World Championship, Al Wathba, Abu Dhabi, from 6.30am Dec 3 and 4, from Dhs350. race.spartan.com

Stars under the stars

Umm Al Emarat Park’s popular alfresco cinema is in full theatrical swing, showing its schedule of family-friendly film classics. Whilst it’s not quite free, at Dhs10 (for the park entry fee) that’s some pretty incredible value. Showings take place on Fridays and Saturdays at 5:30pm and 7:30pm. There’s a AAA line up of animated movies come over the next few weeks. Umm Al Emarat Park also has its own fun-size train, a petting zoo, a BOUNCE trampoline park, wisdom garden, botanical garden and some special culturally relevant treats just for the National Day weekend.

Movies are free, but entry into the park is charged at Dhs10. Located at Umm Al Emarat Park, ummalemaratpark.ae 

Just say Yas

Al Maryah Island

We have had confirmation that the Al Maryah Island National Day firework display is returning with a two night stint of jumbo sky bangers (December 2 and 3).  The best viewing point is probably the The Promenade Al Maryah Island, where you can stand and watch or book into one of the waterfront restaurants (including Michelin Star winning 99 Sushi). Just a note, whilst you’re down there, The Ripe Market Al Maryah is also launching that weekend, and the big World Cup screen will continue to show all the big matches kicking off throughout the holiday and beyond.

It takes a Village

If you fancy doing something appropriately cultural over the National Day weekend, you can get a taste of life before the skyscrapers and vibey beach clubs at the capital’s Heritage village, a recreation of a traditional Emirati village, conveniently located next to Marina Mall on the edge of the city. Conceived by the Emirates Heritage Club, you can catch local artisans demonstrating their skills in metalwork, pottery, weaving and glass-blowing. There’s even a mini souk where you can pick-up souvenirs from these time-honoured crafts.

Abu Dhabi Corniche Breakwater, daily 11am to 11pm, Dhs5. Tel: (02)  681 4455, torath.gov.ae

Festival feels

Held in the Al Wathba region of Abu Dhabi, the Sheikh Zayed Festival is a celebration of both UAE and world culture, and includes a collection of pavilions, parades, performances, food adventures, spectacular fireworks displays and interactive exhibitions that add up to a pretty incredible, fun old family day out. New attractions for this year include a Glow and Flower Garden, a ‘Horror House’, Art District, the Selfie Street District, Dessert Museum, Go Karting, Children’s District and Crazy Car District. And there will no doubt be some wild firework and drone shows in the mix for the big days.

Al Wathba, 4pm to midnight daily until March, 18 2023. zayedfestival.ae.

Saturday, December 3

Make it official

Abu Dhabi Skyline

In Abu Dhabi, there is a line-up of celebrations taking place at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre for the official celebrations from Saturday, December 3. The celebrations go on for nine whole days until Sunday, December 11. Tickets are officially on sale for the celebrations and can be purchased here. The show begins at 6pm (doors open at 3pm). Prices start from Dhs200. The show will showcase stories across generations through performances, unique technology, and exceptional storytelling that take inspiration from the UAE’s rich culture and present-day collective ambition – a journey towards the year 2071.

UAE 51st National Day celebrations, Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, Abu Dhabi, Dec 3 to 11, tickets start from Dhs200, and children under 3 can enter for free, @officialUAEND

Will you Maryah me?

Al Maryah Island

We have had confirmation that the Al Maryah Island National Day firework display is returning with a two night stint of jumbo sky bangers (December 2 and 3).  The best viewing point is probably the The Promenade Al Maryah Island, where you can stand and watch or book into one of the waterfront restaurants (including Michelin Star winning 99 Sushi). Just a note, whilst you’re down there, The Ripe Market Al Maryah is also launching that weekend, and the big World Cup screen will continue to show all the big matches kicking off throughout the holiday and beyond.

Two goals, one cup

There are two ’round of 16′ World Cup clashes scheduled in on Saturday — with one decided (Netherlands vs USA at 7pm) and one still TBC (results dependent). Where are we watching it? A new meaning to the phrase ‘football pools’, this Balearic beat and beach club is offering a dive-in experience for watching World Cup games. A huge screen will be placed at the back of the lagoon offering the option of in-pool and lounger spectating, and presumably terrace chants of ‘you only swim when you’re winning”.

Yas Bay, gents Dhs150 entrance and one drink, ladies Dhs100 entrance and one drink. @cafedelmarabudhabi

Pinned Post

FIFA Artists in UAE

Posty, a tatted face that we know and love. He will be heading to the UAE Capital on Saturday December 3. The Rockstar that he is, will be performing at the Etihad Park on Yas Island. He is the genius behind so many incredible tracks such as I Like You, Sunflower, Circles and Congratulations. 

Etihad Park, Yas Island, Sat Dec 3. Tickets via the via the ticketmaster.ae and virginmegastore.ae 

In the jungle

The lion king musical

Hakuna matata, UAE folks – this is your last chance to catch the award-winning stage show version of The Lion King lands in Abu Dhabi. Marking its 25-year anniversary, the world-famous, award-winning musical’s historic four-week run in the UAE capital comes to an end on December 10 at Yas Island’s Etihad Arena. Ticket prices start from Dhs200.

The Lion King musical, Etihad Arena, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, until December 10, ticket prices start from Dhs200. Tel: (600) 511 115. etihadarena.ae

Souqs to be you

Souq Al Mina sits at the heart of Abu Dhabi’s new look Mina Zayed, launching just in time for National Day visitors will be able to experience cultural activities, live crafts, a petting zoo, musical acts, learning experiences and patriotic entertainment complete with a ‘Nostalgic Walkway’ that pays homage to Arab culture. The celebrations here start on December 1 and end on December 4 (4pm to 11pm).

Sunday, December 4

All the vibes

miami vibes

Back for a third edition, this time at leafy Umm Al Emarat Park, is Miami Vibes food festival. Those that come for the food, often stay for the experience. Miami Vibes is known for pastel shades, big pink pineapples, dainty fairy lights and fuego Floridian ambiance. This year’s culinary collaborators include: Meat X; Sip Café; Mylk Café; Cola Ribs; Tag Moon; Paella.Dxb; Island Burger; Yamasaki Sushi; Rolls Thirty Three; Lets Padel Café; Lets Sea By Bucket Co; Ezgourmet Fusion Kitchen; UZU; Coal; Gottlich; Oud Café; Coffeelism; Chocorush; Senior Taco; Dope Café; Wales cafe; Oro Pizzeria; White Café; and Spartan café.

Umm Al Emarat Park, Mushrif Area, Abu Dhabi, 3pm to 12am daily, until December 8, Dhs10. @miamivibes.ae

Deer sir/madam

Deerfields Mall is having a bit of a National Day makeover as part of its December 2 to 4 celebrations, with an old-fashioned Majlis setup with Arabic cooking stations serving local swee dish delicacy lugaimat (ball doughnut type things), Emirati dates, and Arabian coffee. There’s also a live falcon display. ayala dancing, henna painting in collaboration with Jumasan Beauty Centre, and a cupcake workshop.

It’s coming… Somewhere

There’s a pair of World Cup knock out games and we already have confirmed teams for one of the clashes, England vs Senegal kicking off on Sunday. But where to watch it?  Ooh-ah Shangri-La, we said ooh-ah Shangri-La. That’s our terrace chant and we’re sticking with it. It’s all in honour of the Shangri-La Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi’s luxurious Football Village — a beachside soccer supporter’s paradise with table topping deals, authentic match atmosphere feels, and fan events of multinational appeal. The Football Village Day Pass really does allow you to make a day of it. It’s Dhs100 and includes two drinks as well as a cheeky permission slip for beach access — because whether your team are destined to win or lose, a day spent lounging by the sea is absolute ‘best life’ goals. They’re also offering a special Saturday brunches, inter-match quizes, a comedy cup and the opportunity to win some massive prizes.

Shangri-La Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi, Khor Al Maqta, Nov 20 to Dec 18 daily 1pm to 1am, Dhs100 (includes two drinks and beach access). Tel: (02) 509 8555, restaurantreservations.slad@shangri-la.comshangrilaexperiences.com

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

A festive arty party

Crafty workshop specialists, Design & Dine are throwing a festive themed get together where you can celebrate the true spirit of Christmas, via the medium of, erm, plant pot decorating. Pro tip: Perfect for one of those ‘it’s the thought that counts’ presents. You’ll also get access to free flow mulled wine, festive cocktails and traditional Yuletide trimmings. Festive dress is encouraged, and we predict the playlist will go hard on The Pogues, Wham and Mariah. Priced at Dhs339.

The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi, 12pm to 2.30pm, Sun Dec 4, Dhs339. @designanddine.ae

Salt lake bae

Abu Dhabi’s Salt Lakes took Instagram by storm last year. Bloggers, influencers and the naturally curious headed out to their location near Al Wathba Wildlife Reserve, to capture snaps with the narrow pastel green lakes filled with crystalline lily pad features. You can find the exact location on Google Maps, but getting there isn’t easy. Take an SUV, take snacks and back up supplies, tell someone where you are going, do not litter, and make sure you’re all fuelled up. We promise it’s worth it.

Images: Instagram / @a.c.h.r.i.s.t.y / @perspectivesofjames / @vishnu.ae

Images: Provided/Getty