Dubai is an inimitable Arabian city, humming with extraordinary sights and sounds. Navigating the destination, therefore, can be an overwhelming task, especially for debut Dubai visitors. Our curated list of top things to do in Dubai allows first-time travelers to glance at iconic and lesser-known yet compelling attractions on their much-awaited Dubai visit. So, are you ready to know all the unmissable experiences that this beautiful city has to offer? Let’s start!
1. Stay At an Out-Of-This-World Accommodation
If you wish to make your first Dubai trip special, start by booking your accommodation in a stylish setting. Luckily, Dubai holds an unrivaled reputation for its incredible line-up of accommodation choices where you can feel the pinnacle of luxury and elegance.
Stay in the priciest suite at the classic Burj Al Arab, or reserve a room at Atlantis, The Palm. Other options, such as Bulgari Resort Dubai, Palazzo Versace Dubai, and Jumeirah Al Qasr, are equally fantastic. They offer first-class amenities and comforts while assuring you of a relaxed holiday.
2. Visit Burj Khalifa
This 828-meters high structure in Downtown Dubai is one of the ultimate symbols of modern Dubai. It is the tallest man-made structure ever built on the planet and has held this record since 2009. Not to mention, it deserves a top spot in your Dubai checklist.
One of the must-dos here is to visit its ‘At the Top observation deck at the 124th level, 148th level, or both. The observation deck allows you to see the whole of Dubai and beyond spread right in front of you. But it is not just about views; you can enjoy one of the region’s fastest elevator rides and watch a multimedia exhibit on Dubai’s historical aspects.
3. Wander around the Sprawling Dubai Mall
The Dubai mall is another attraction you should not miss on your first-ever Dubai trip. Located adjacent to Burj Khalifa, it is more than just a mall; it is a mega, all-encompassing venue where you can shop, dine, and be entertained to your heart’s desire. It is courtesy of its combination of over 1200 outlets, more than 200 dining choices, and, mostly, a world of leisure attractions ideal for all age groups.
Entry into this mall is free, but charges apply if you wish to visit its attractions like Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, KidZania Dubai, Ekart Zabeel, Dubai Ice Rink, and VR Park.
Before leaving the place, be sure to witness the spellbinding Dubai Fountain show outside the mall at Burj Lake. With the mighty presence of Burj Khalifa and the buzzing ambiance of Souk Al Bahar in the backdrop, this aquatic performance in great sync of music and light is truly a sight to behold. Did we say you can watch this show for free?
4. Take an Inside Tour of Burj Al Arab
Burj Al Arab is one of the world’s most expensive hotels where the concept of a luxurious stay is redefined. Don’t worry if you cannot afford to stay in this legendary sail-shaped hotel on its own private island! Book an inside tour of Burj Al Arab. The butler guided tour introduces you to some of the most regal features and premium facilities that comprise this all-suite accommodation, such as the Royal Suite, the tallest of its kind atrium, and UMA Lounge, to name a few.
5. Catch the View from The Palm
No preface is required to describe Dubai’s manufactured islands, in particular Palm Jumeirah, which is celebrated for its giant palm-like design adorned by a crescent on its top. If you are searching for a pocket-friendly way to admire this unusual attraction, all you have to do is head up to the View at The Palm – an observatory that was exclusively built to give you the full yet grand display of this island. It is located on the 52nd level of Palm Tower, where the entry into the observatory is via Nakheel Mall.
6. Step into the Museum of the Future
Recently, Dubai hit the headlines for unveiling one of the world’s most futuristic museums. Yes, the Museum of the Future lives up to its name, with its uber-contemporary theme and surreal displays that will take you 50 years in the future. The museum’s design says it all, featuring a ring kind of structure that shines in the middle of the city. It is hard to miss out on this attraction in Dubai!
7. Enjoy a Rotation on Ain Dubai
This is another new attraction you can visit on your first visit to Dubai. Placed at the waterfront neighborhood of Bluewaters Island, Ain Dubai is the world’s largest and highest observation wheel. A revolution in one of its enclosed, air-conditioned cabins will tower you to a height of over 250 meters, treating you with the most commanding views over the sights across Bluewaters Island, JBR (Jumeirah Beach Residence), Dubai Marina, and Palm Jumeirah. As the ride lasts about 40 minutes, you can choose from a shared or private ride experience.
8. Mingle with Celebs at Madame Tussauds Dubai
It’s rare that people haven’t heard about the chain of Madame Tussauds Museums spreading worldwide. One of its latest locations is at Dubai’s Bluewaters Island, next to Ain Dubai. The good news is that it is the first of its kind in the Middle East.
If you are unaware, the major draw here is the life-size wax statues of celebrated personalities representing domains of popularity, including movies, politics, sports, entertainment, etc. So, bring your fully charged camera or smartphone and cram it with some unbelievable snaps of your beloved celebs.
9. Don’t Miss Dubai’s Theme Parks
Each theme park in Dubai is so unique and special that each of them deserves mention in this list. Visiting theme parks is one of the best things to do in Dubai with kids. It may not be feasible to visit all of them on your first visit, but you can make it to one or two. Ski Dubai is one of our top theme park favorites for its snow-themed setting, rides, and experiences that are sure to leave you in awe.
If action and fun are what you are looking for, IMG Worlds of Adventure, with five cool zones, is simply unbeatable. For theme park fanatics, there is an ultimate choice by way of Dubai Parks and Resorts – the region’s first-of-its-kind integrated resort with four theme parks in its premise, such as Motiongate Dubai, Bollywood Parks Dubai, LEGOLAND Dubai, and LEGOLAND Water Park.
10. Desert Safari
For a slice of the Arabian Desert landscape and Bedouin culture, a desert safari tour is a must-experience activity in Dubai. It is primarily a guided tour where you will be whisked away to the city’s isolated part, surrounded by nothing but pristine desert sands.
It may appear bleak at first glance, but it will soon become a surprise package with activities like a 4X4 dune bash, camel ride, sandboarding, quad biking, Shisha smoking, henna tattooing, etc. Subject to your chosen desert safari package, you get to relish BBQ dining (buffet style) and watch traditional shows like Belly Dance and Tanura performances.
11. Revisit the Emirati Past at Al Bastakiya Quarter
Dubai is best known for its soaring skyscrapers and world-class leisure options. With that being said, it has its share of historical and cultural landmarks too. A visit to Al Bastakiya Quarter (officially known as Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood) will transport you to a side of Dubai where time stands still. Walk down the narrow alleys of this painstakingly preserved 19th-century neighborhood, packed with ancient sand structures topped by wooden wind towers. Interestingly, most now function as art galleries, art café, or museums.
12. Go on an Exciting Cruise
A cruise in Dubai takes several forms. If you want to go on a leisurely cruise, there is a dhow cruise that allows you to sail in a traditional wooden vessel with all dining, refreshments, and of course, a chance to enjoy the best views available onboard. You can choose to go on a dhow cruise at Dubai Creek or Dubai Marina (highly recommended for the supreme views of modern Dubai.)
Alternatively, for those who wish to cruise in Dubai with a refined twist, nothing could probably beat a yacht charter Dubai session. It gives you a once-in-the-lifetime opportunity to take in Dubai like a real celebrity, thanks to the high-end facilities and views that await you in a Dubai yacht.
Attractions and activities mentioned in this list are beyond typical experiences. They include a mix of brand-new sights, timeless experiences, and out-of-the-world adventures. So, consider the above suggestion when you compile your dream Dubai bucket list; they let you take home some prized memories that you will cherish forever.
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This post originally appeared on The Impulse Traveler.