ALL IN THE FAMILY
SAND BY ME: This is worth going on for the dune bashing — driving at speed over the sand in a four-wheel drive. There’s a chance to try sandboarding, as well as dinner in the desert, with wine and belly dancing, under the stars; arabian-adventures.com.
SLOPE OFF: It may seem counter-intuitive to go skiing in Dubai, but this is brilliant fun. As well as a pretty good ski slope with artificial snow on two pistes, there’s tobogganing, zip wiring, tubing and the chance to meet the resident penguins; theplaymania.com/skidubai.
WATER WORLD: If you go to only one, make it Aquaventure at Atlantis the Palm, which has the best lazy river (where you float around in inflatable tubes) I’ve been on, with several sets of (not so lazy) rapids. There are some cool rides, including one that takes you through a sharkfilled aquarium and the nearvertical slide off the Tower of Neptune. The other waterpark, Wild Wadi at Jumeirah Beach, has better raft rides but isn’t quite as thrill-tastic, although the Jumeirah Scream water slide (pictured) lived up to its name. Entry is free at both for hotel guests; atlantisthepalm.com.
IT’S A MALL WORLD: One of the world’s largest shopping malls is housed in the tallest building, Burj Khalifa (entry fees apply for viewing platforms), with amazing views. There’s also a mini theme-park taster at Sega Republic. If you want to see the dancing Dubai fountains, choreographed to music, they start at 7pm; thedubaimall.com.
STAY IN STYLE: Jumeirah Beach Hotel is my favourite family-friendly place to stay in Dubai. Its premium family product gives you access to a separate lounge and games room, with complimentary drinks and (substantial) snacks. Built to resemble a breaking wave, it’s one of the most recognisable buildings on the Dubai skyline, along with Burj al-Arab just in front. There’s a family pool, a kids’ club and free access to the Wild Wadi water park next door. The food is excellent, from the Latitudes buffet to the shoreside restaurant Villa Beach; jumeirah.com.
LOST WORLD: Atlantis the Palm offers probably the most full-on family experience but it is massive, with 1500 guestrooms. It comes with a stunning 10m-deep aquarium that you can walk around and peer in, but it’s even better if you dive in, or explore it with special air-filled helmets. There’s free access to the Aquadventure water park too. Atlantis also has a premium family product with a lounge offering drinks and free snacks. There’s a host of on-site restaurants, including Nobu and Gordon Ramsay’s Bread Street Kitchen & Bar; atlantisthepalm.com.