So Many Things To Do In Dubai
There is no end of things to do in Dubai. The architecture of this city will keep you looking up at the variety and size of the buildings. A trip out along the Palm Jumeirah took us to visit the Atlantis Resort. We relaxed on the beach and headed out of town to see the vast stretches of sand in the desert. Two harbour cruises showed us two very different parts of Dubai from the water.
When we wanted to see Dubai at its most entertaining, we spent some time at the Dubai Mall. And then there was New Years in Dubai for a great night show!
If you get bored in Dubai, it is an easy trip to visit one of the other emirates!
Let us see some of the things to do in Dubai …
1) Admire The Buildings And Architecture
Dubai is known for its architecture. It seems that each building that goes up, strives to be different from all others. The geeky engineer in me spent a lot of time with her neck craned up to take in the buildings as we moved around Dubai. There was so much variety in colour and shape. I would have this same engineering awe when we did the river architectural tour in Chicago!
There are two iconic buildings in Dubai that everyone knows. The Burj Khalifa located behind the Dubai Mall is the tallest building in Dubai. The weather did not cooperate when we visited so we did not get to see the amazing panoramic views from the top. The other distinctive building is the Burj Arab. It sits on the waterfront and looks like a sail.
As we drove around Dubai, we also saw more traditional buildings and mosques. They were artistic and intricate in a different way than the sky scrapers.
Everywhere we looked we saw construction cranes. The city just kept going higher and higher.
Looking at the fascinating architecture was one of our favourite things to do in Dubai.
2) Head Out Along Palm Jumeirah
On our first visit to Dubai, we used the Hop-On-Hop-Off (HOHO) bus for two days. The first HOHO route we used was the one that took us out along the Palm Jumeirah. We wanted to see the Atlantis Dubai Resort. We are frequent visitors to Nassau, Bahamas and the Atlantis Resort there. Many days were spent as we enjoyed the water parks, aquarium and pools.
It was uncanny to see the Atlantis Dubai Resort. It had the same pink, turreted exterior. When we went inside, familiar sights greeted us. We walked past the shops, the casino, and the massive aquarium.
A visit to the Atlantis Dubai Resort can be a day trip on your list of things to do in Dubai!
3) Relax On The Beach
A short walk from where we stayed at the Intercontinental Dubai Marina, we found the JBR beach nestled under the hotels and condo buildings. It was a busy beach with tons of things to do.
When we planned for our trip to Dubai, I went out and bought a new bathing suit that covered more skin. I wanted to be respectful of the local traditions. But we saw a lot of bare skin at the beach. Although we also did see a lot of fully robed people who must have melted in the heat!
When we first got on the beach we saw a group of people gathered around the camels on the beach. Then we saw the people on camel rides picking their way between the towels. This was our first view of camels in Dubai. But we got an up-close view when we did our desert adventure.
Spending some time on the sandy beaches with clear blue water is definitely one of the things to do in Dubai!
4) Head To The Desert
An authentic desert experience was at the top of our list of things to do in Dubai. We booked a desert adventure that took us out of the city. Our fun started with dune bashing. Not for the faint of heart! Since we had missed a camel ride on the beach, we made sure to have our first camel ride.
After we watched the sun set in the desert, we enjoyed a great Bedouin show with dinner. The fire show was entertaining and the spinner kept us mesmerized.
A desert adventure should definitely be on your list of things to do in Dubai.
5) Enjoy A Cruise
There were lots of options to take a short cruise around Dubai. A cruise alone the Dubai Creek gave us a view of a more traditional Dubai. The spice and gold souks were in this area.
Traditional dhow boats were used as ferries across the channel. Larger dhow boats provided the tourist cruises. If we wanted some entertainment, the evening cruises provided dinner and music.
There was much to see along both shores of the Dubai Creek.
We stayed at the Intercontinental Dubai Marina. A tour from the Dubai Marina got us a different water experience. There were great views of the boats and buildings lining this canal. The tour then took us out along the Palm Jumeirah. We got yet one more look at the Atlantis Resort from this perspective.
As we headed back to the marina, we got a view of the marina skyline as the sun set. Back in the marina, we watched the boats and shops light up with brightly coloured neon.
Taking a cruise is a great one of the things to do in Dubai. We took both the Dubai Creek and Marina tours and each one offered something interesting to see.
6) Eat, Shop Or Play At The Dubai Mall
A visit to the Dubai Mall is generally on the top of most people’s list of things to do in Dubai. We found the shopping to be expensive but we were not there to shop.
People enjoyed the indoor skating rink and the aquarium. The divers on the fountain wall drew out attention. Everywhere we looked there was something else to see and do at the Dubai Mall.
Our favourite attraction at the Dubai Mall was the fountain show under the Burj Khalifa. The fountain danced in synch to music. At night the fountain lights matched the music.
Don’t miss putting the Dubai Mall on your list of things to do in Dubai.
7) Celebrate New Years Eve
Dubai is a great place to celebrate New Year’s Eve. There are massive fireworks displays all around the city. We walked down to the JBR beach and muscled in with the crowd. As the fireworks went off around the bay, the cellphones and iPads all were lifted to catch the show.
We wanted to go downtown in Dubai to see the great fireworks display on the Burj Khalifa. But transportation into downtown was a major issue. If seeing the New Years Eve show on the Burj is one of the things to do in Dubai on your list, make sure you have a hotel close by. The lights and laser show will definitely be worth it.
8) See The Other Emirates
If you have exhausted the things to do in Dubai, it is an easy trip to visit the other emirates from Dubai. Abu Dhabi was a city very similar to Dubai with lots to see and do. It even has another Atlantis Resort!
We also visited Fujairah. It was a very different emirate, more rural and traditional. It is the only emirate that has mountains and lots of water.
While you could consider a day trip to the other emirates, there is much to explore if you plan a longer stay.
You Have Your Pick Of Things To Do In Dubai
There were so many things to see and do in Dubai. We were kept busy for two different visits. There is something for just about everyone. And getting around Dubai was easier once we left the highways!
But even after we went back to Dubai a second time for New Years, there was much left on our list of things to do in Dubai. We missed the ski hill and other attractions at the Mall of the Emirates. We really wanted to go high and get a panoramic view of Dubai in a helicopter or small plane. And we missed going up the Burj Khalifa. When we visited Abu Dhabi, we didn’t get to drive the Ferraris. There are many things to do in Dubai that are still on our list!
What was your favourite of the things to do in Dubai? What would you recommend giving a pass?
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The buildings and skyline are so striking, it’s something I love about Hong Kong too but the desert and spice souks would be top of my reasons for visiting Dubai, and a little shopping too I guess. Thanks for adding a few new must-dos for our list.
Toni, There is so much to see and do in Dubai. I just love interesting skylines so loved the variety in the buildings. Apparently there is pride in making yours different from any other. We head to Hong Kong in the fall so that should be an interesting comparison for us. I am glad this gave you a few things to think about for Dubai. Just finishing up the series on Dubai in the next week. Linda
I must visit one day. The desert is calling my name. And the architecture!
Solmaz, There is so much to see and do in Dubai. The desert was such a contrast to the architecture. Definitely worth a visit. Linda
This is a good post on Dubai. We thought an overnight layover was enough. But the Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa are not all there is. Plus I didn’t know that Abu Dhabi is only a little more than an hour away and that Fujairah is a little more than 2!
Carol, I am glad this gave you a broader view of things to do in Dubai. We certainly added several things once we got there. We visited the other emirates on our cruise so we did not do a day or weekend trip to them from Dubai. But it is easily achievable. We met people who travelled around the emirates for over a week and never got tired of things to visit. A layover day will only give you a taste test. Linda
I loved reading your post about my city, I have been here for 7 years and I love it. I think you’ve managed to get the most important and exciting things to do in Dubai, listed in this post. Definitely go into the desert and experience dune bashing or overnight camping, and cruising (there are so many options) over the creek or in the sea is also a great idea. Of course, not to forget, enjoying the many wonders of the world in Dubai is a key thing to do!
Medha, Thanks for your comments. Always worried what locals might think about a tourist visit. We were really happy we had the chance to visit twice. The first time gave us a good overview so that when we returned we had a better sense of where we wanted to go. Even with two visits, we still have a lot on our list of things we wanted to do. So we will be back to your fascinating city! Linda
The cruise will be the highlight for me in this trip. Dubai is sure a city of tall buildings and I can’t help but keep looking up the last time I was there. And yes I agree with you, the architecture here is a goal, especially the mosques. I spent most of my time shopping with my friend who was a bride-to-be and it was so fun.
Lydia, Shopping is certainly a main attraction for many people when they visit Dubai. As a Civil Engineer, the buildings kept drawing my attention. Whether it was older traditional buildings or the new ones. A great city with much to see and do! Linda
We’ve been to Dubai a few times, once for a holiday and again on stopovers. We were amazed how warm that sea water was, it was like swimming in a heated pool. One thing we haven’t done is a desert adventure, definitely something we must try next time.
Marcus and Mel, We were definitely surprised by how much there was to see and do in Dubai. So I can understand your returning more than once. A desert adventure is a lot of fun. If you come in for a few days, maybe consider staying in the desert a few nights. Linda
I think I managed to check off all but New Years on those actions when I visited a year ago, although you got way better pictures than I did. I also found it really interesting to see fully robed people at the beach, but that’s the culture. I’d love to go back on the desert safari, even knowing how touristy and un-authentic they are. I like your comment about staying in the desert a few nights. That’s exactly my cup of tea.
We enjoyed the chance to see Dubai at New Years. The show was great in the Marina district but I really would have liked to make it down to the Burj Khalafi. I definitely recommend trying to stay in the desert. Our adventure was fun but a bit too much of a production line for me. Linda
Dubai is indeed a mind-boggling mosaic of experiences. Love the fact that there is a complete range of things to do from adventure, culture, food, leisure, and architecture. We were there for a short trip late last year and loved it. Apart from the futuristic malls and buildings of Dubai we loved the dhow cruise. We need to head back for more.
Sandy, We too were surprised at the wide range of things we could do in Dubai. Even with two visits we left with a list of things to do on a return visit. Glad you got to enjoy the dhow cruise. Linda
What a lot of the things you have been able to cover and I think you have visited all the usual places and a bit more. Like you say, the city is in such stark contrast to the desert . It is indeed incredible and commendable how they have been able to build and maintain such high-rises on a desert!
Nishi, I too am impressed with how much they have been able to build and sustain on top of a desert. I also find their efforts at building out into the sea to be remarkable. Creating new space surrounded by water takes away the image that you are in a desert. Linda
I loved both Dubai and Abu Dhabi. I would definitely return. Plenty to do with even more.
Holly, We were surprised to find so much to do in Dubai beyond the typical first stops. And even though we had two visits, we still left with a long list of things to do next time. Linda
I had no idea there was an Atlantis in Dubai! That is something that I would really want to experience. If I can ever be pulled away from staring at the beautiful architecture, that is! lol
Vicky and Buddy, It was very uncanny how much the Atlantis looked like the one in Bahamas. And then when we went to Abu Dhabi, we saw another one! Very cool. But I too was mesmerized by the architecture – so many different shapes, colours with them all reaching for the sky. Linda
2 months left before I go to Dubai. Im so exited to explore both the modern and traditional Dubai- and go shopping off course.
I think I will take a day trip to Abu Dhabi to see the mosque and the Louvre.
Jossus, You will enjoy your visit to Dubai. There is indeed so much to see and do. We left with a long list of things we still wanted to see. We only had one day in Abu Dhabi but it is definitely worth a visit. We saw the mosque in Oman and were really sorry we missed the one in Abu Dhabi. Have fun! Linda
Dubai seems to be the ultimate travel destination these days and I can see why. So much to see and do there. I’m sure the more time you spend there the more great things to do you discover, but for now I’d be happy to just do some on your list. Hopefully sometimes soon my husband will retire to so that we can start traveling more seriously.
Anda, We definitely found more to do in Dubai than we expected to find. We were lucky that our first trip gave us an overview so we could be far more productive on our second trip. I will wish you an early retirement. We are loving have the flexibility to travel more and more. Linda
I am glad I found your post. I recently started my Dubai travel blog and visited several places. Your information is very genuine. Keep doing great work.
Shahid, I am glad you have found the blog information helpful. Thanks for the feedback. Linda