The allure of the desert brought us to Dubai. For no other reason, we were there to experience the vast expanse of sand, the terrain that was so unfamiliar and therefore unique to us. The desert. What we did not anticipate was just how perfect Dubai was as a family destination… at least for our family of five. I’ll preface this by saying that we have older children, aged 13, 11 and 8 and that we decided to treat ourselves with a more generous budget on this leg of our world travels. That being said, we learnt the following.
-Dubai is a must return to destination for our family, as 4 days was not nearly enough.
-Winter is definitely the season to visit.
-Dubai makes for a fabulous family vacation.
1. Platinum Heritage Desert Safari
We’re not one for hoards of tourists. We prefer a quiet, tailor made experience which allows for customisation to suit our interests and needs. We also prefer smaller operators that focus on an individual experience rather than maximising on customer numbers. We wanted something that wouldn’t feel kitsch and simply about numbers and making money. This is why we chose Platinum. Whilst they are not cheap, we found them to be value, if the post tour feeling is anything to go by. This was the highlight of our entire nine week trip around the world so far …and by this stage we had experienced some pretty amazing things.
Here’s how the tour unfolded.
– private pick up from hotel at nominated time by us. We wanted a sunrise desert experience so this was a 5:30am pick up
– Transfer from our pickup limo to a vintage 1948 Land Rover
– Racing across the dunes in darkness to the perfect location to watch the sunrise and snap that special photo (or in or case so many of them)
– Photos finished, camels were arranged for a private 40 minute ride towards a secluded breakfast location.
– Arabic coffee and dates, with a breakfast spread on plush rugs surrounded by the desert.
– Following breakfast, an Eco-conservation desert safari
– Return hotel transfers
Unanimously our whole family agreed that this was the best thing we had done so far, not only in Dubai, but on all our travels.
2. Dubai Aquarium Mall (located inside Dubai Mall)
I’m not too sure what to make of the Dubai Aquarium experience. I thought I was visiting the one that everyone raves about (but later learnt that is the Atlantis Aquarium).
Dubai Mall Aquirium is entirely different. I’ll begin by saying it’s more than just the iconic aquarium visible in many social media photos. There is an upper level and lower level which includes an underwater zoo with various birds and water creatures. This was the saving grace, to what may have been a “little lame” according to my 13 year old. What I can say is my 8 and 11 year old loved this experience, so in this instance, happy kids makes for happy mum and dad.
A permanent garden exhibition, the Miracle Garden showcases the creative, limitless power of imagination. From a commercial plane adorned in flowers to dreamy floral spaces to relax.
4. One&Only Royal Mirage Resort – Day pass to access private beach and pool
Truthfully, Andrew and I were extremely curious about a future stay at a One and Only Resort, so as reconnaissance we chose to purchase a day pass to access pools, resort facilities and private beach.
Our family were also eager to thaw out from the month long of cold whilst travelling in Japan. We were seeking sun before heading to the UK for Winter. Dubai’s winter warmth, sun and sea was to be the remedy. Whilst a small fortune for a family of five, the tarrif reflected the resorts amenities and beauty. Suffice to say, when we are kid free again, One&Only is definitely a resort on Andrew and my list to experience.
What did we get for our private day pass money? The privilege of a private beach, and privacy often comes at a cost. You know by now I am really not a fan of large crowds. Freedom to comfortably wear the beach attire of our choosing. Pool and beachside service. Very limited numbers. Immaculately clean. And stunning views. Not forgetting we needed a way to “try before you buy” if we were to stay at such a hotel in the future.
5. Dubai Mall
Men, be warned, bring your comfiest walking shoes, you’ll be here for hours.
Women, leave your credit cards at home, you’ll undoubtedly do damage otherwise. Think shopping. Think the biggest mall you could ever conceive of. Then double it, and double it again, and you may just come close to what is the Mecca of shopping. With an indoor ice skating rink, indoor aquarium, beauty parlours, floors dedicated to restaurants, a food court, and shopping to meet a wide range of budgets, the Dubai Mall is exhausting fun. Yes, I said exhausting. Yes, I also said lots and lots of fun, (obviously more so if you’re the shopping type). But the restaurants here are really good, in particular the French chain Paul.
6. Sunrise Burj Khalifa Early Access Tickets
There’s a magic about watching the sun rise. Combine that with the benefit of less crowds due to an early access Burj Khalifa ticket, and I can assure you I was like the cat who got the cream.
The tower itself, aside from being an engineering marvel and the tallest building in the world, the view is spectacular. Despite the early morning we all enjoyed it. The sunrise ticket included an onsite cafe pastry and drink… food is always a favourite of my kids.
7. La Perle (water show)
Having seen and loved a similar show in Macau (house of Dancing Water), also by the same artist, Dragone, we knew that the relatively newly created La Perle was a must. Comparable to Cirque Du Solei but with water, the 90 minute long, thrilling show left us once again exhilirated by the creative acrobatics of artists and entertainers.
8. Old Town Abra Boat Ride- Gold & Spice Souk
Away from the modern skyskrapers and party goers scene we wanted to experience another side of Dubai’s culture. Truthfully, we found it confronting and were quite uncomfortable by the blatant stares and persistent hawking. We’re glad we went as it is an experience, and not all travel is comfortable, but this experience is one not for everyone… research it thoroughly first. If I had my time over, I’d do it again. But if I went back to Dubai, I wouldn’t. Once was enough.
We are so not finished with Dubai. Never did we imagine it would be so well suited to entertain the whole family. The cleanliness, feeling of safety at all times, expectional service, accommodating nature of the locals and quality food made Dubai somewhere we hope to return to sooner rather than later.