Best family-friendly Dubai holidays for 2023

An impressive, sprawling desert city, Dubai has firmly established itself as one of the UK’s favourite holiday destinations in recent times, with an increasingly large number of Brits visiting the Emirate every year for guaranteed sun and a wealth of entertainment options.

Famed for year-round warm weather and the grandiose nature of its buildings, malls and hotels, Dubai is a dynamic choice for a trip, whether you’re a honeymooning couple or a family with young kids.

While this sprawling desert city has much to offer in the way of adults-only activities, it’s also a surprisingly family-friendly destination. A range of long, sandy beaches, vast theme parks, traditional markets and unique attractions means that there are plenty of ways to keep children entertained.

Far more than just a convenient stopover destination for long-haul flights, Dubai boasts an eclectic array of things to do, Below, we’ve rounded up a list of some of the best offerings to give you a welcome family getaway in the desert, from hotels that feature adjacent waterparks to exploring Dubai’s vibrant marina.

Waterpark hotels

Aquaventure waterpark with Atlantis, The Palm in the background

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Dubai is home to a number waterparks attached to or associated with nearby hotels. A family holiday at the right property can give you all the perks of a luxury hotel stay with the added benefit of keeping the kids happy with multiple slides, rides and pools (while other hotels have free entry into nearby parks if you book a stay).

Dubai has four main waterparks: Aquaventure, Wild Wadi, Legoland and AquaFun. Legoland is more aimed at children between the ages of two and 12, and AquaFun is an inflatable waterpark that lies just off The Beach at JBR. Wild Wadi is the city’s original waterpark, with over 30 attractions sitting near the Burj Al Arab and Jumeirah Beach, but Aquaventure is the world’s largest waterpark – this is Dubai after all – with 105 different slides and rides.

While Legoland has its own hotel and AquaFun is not associated with a specific hotel, both Aquaventure and Wild Wadi have offers related to nearby hotels. Aquaventure is a part of the iconic Atlantis hotel, and Wild Wadi is attached to the Jumeirah Beach Hotel (though stays at the Madinat Jumeirah and Burj Al Arab also provide guests with complimentary access).

Where to stay

Though booking the Atlantis will offer an iconic stay and access to the largest waterpark in the world, the hotel is among the most expensive in the city. The Jumeirah Beach Hotel is a more affordable (though still pricey) option that is also the picture of luxury; all its rooms have sweeping views over the Gulf, and it boasts five swimming pools and a section of private beach in addition to Wild Wadi.

Discover Downtown

Dubai’s cityscape, with the Burj Khalifa at the centre

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One of the city’s most important districts is Downtown. The result of a multi-billion pound development, this area is the city’s tourism hub, an area of superlatives that is centred around the Burj Khalifa, an 830-metre skyscraper that is the tallest building in the world. Nearby lie the Dubai Mall (the largest in the world) and the Dubai Fountain (the tallest performing fountain in the world). Fully exploring the Mall alone – including its 1,200 stores, Aquarium, VR Park and KidZania (an interactive, educational theme park) – would take over a day to do properly. Watching the Fountain’s light performances, cruising on the 30-acre man-made lake and visiting the ‘At The Top’ observation deck on floor 124 of the Burj Khalifa are other activities that will likely leave little ones awestruck.

Where to stay

The Rove brand has brought affordable alternatives to several areas of Dubai, swapping luxury for more stripped-back accommodation. The Rove Downtown is located 15 minutes’ walk away from the Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall, with rooms that boast views of the rest of the Downtown area and a roof terrace complete with large outdoor pool.

With prices from £50 per night and locations at the Marina, La Mer Beach, the Deira district and several other spots in Dubai, Rove hotels can make for a good-value, family-friendly option.

Read more on North Africa and Middle East travel:

Visit Dubai Marina

Dubai Marina is the result of another multi-billion pound development scheme and sits around 20 minutes away from Downtown. Its five miles of waterside promenade are home to dozens of places to eat and shop, while the nearby JBR beach and The Beach at JBR are great places to relax surrounded by sea, sand and soaring skyscrapers. Alternative activities include the world’s longest urban zip line or a dhow boat cruise on the Marina itself, with on-board barbecues or dinners.

Just a short walk away lies Bluewaters Island, the newest addition to Dubai’s living and leisure scene. Opened in 2019, it is a man-made island in the Arabian Gulf that is home to a range of attractions, from Madame Tussauds to the Ain Dubai, the world’s largest ferris wheel (standing at a height of 210 metres).

Where to stay

There are numerous places to stay in and around the Marina, but Grosvenor House is one of the better-value options. Situated on the promenade, it is home to two restaurants, a top-floor bar and a swimming pool, and all of its rooms have views of the Marina (or surrounding areas) courtesy of large floor-to-ceiling windows.

Explore Dubai’s wild side

Hatta is a picturesque region near Dubai with plenty of outdoor activities available

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Though the city is perhaps less well-known for its outdoor pursuits, in reality Dubai has a wealth of nearby natural beauty, from desert sands to rugged mountains and cool reservoirs. If you prefer to stay closer to the city, desert safaris are a good choice; you can explore the dunes in a 4X4, on a camel or on quad bikes before settling in for a meal and nights under the stars.

Further afield, Hatta is roughly an hour-and-a-half away from the city. This rocky area sits on the border with Oman, in the Hajar Mountains. It is centred around the old village of Hatta, a restored ‘Heritage Village’ that features stone houses, a defensive tower and a traditional falaj water system. A popular eco-tourism destination, it offers visitors the chance to go hiking, mountain biking, kayaking and even paragliding, while its reservoirs and lakes provide great wild swimming opportunities.

Where to stay

For a peaceful, secluded stay in the ‘wild side’ of Dubai, opt for the Bab Al Shams. An oasis surrounded by desert and palm trees, its design takes inspiration from fortified, rural Arab villages, with neutral tones and minimalist decor. It boasts two outdoor swimming pools and a spa.

Theme parks galore

The Global Village is a theme park with entertainment for all ages

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If you thought Dubai’s waterparks were impressive, wait until you discover its theme parks, from film-based adventures to a park that showcases 90 world cultures.

The Global Village is the place for world cultures; the complex puts on several shows (from dance to fireworks) across its streets and 27 themed pavilions that celebrate the cultures and countries of the world, from Thailand to Russia. Meanwhile, movie buffs can find rides at Motiongate, with 27 themed rides over several sections that include the Dreamworks Zone and Sony Pictures Studios.

IMG World of Adventure is the largest indoor theme park in the world, with 22 rides over four different areas and themes ranging from movie characters to dinosaurs. Legoland is an option that also caters to younger children, with an adjacent waterpark.

Where to stay

A Polynesian-themed hotel that sits near the Motiongate and Legoland parks, Lapita is centred around a large outdoor swimming pool and lazy river. The hotel also contains two more swimming pools, a fitness centre and four different dining options.

Visit Old Dubai

Al Fahidi is very different to the well-publicised parts of Downtown

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Dubai’s Old Town is a collection of historic areas that stretches northeast from the border with Downtown up to and across Dubai Creek to Deira (Bur Dubai is the name given to the area west of the Creek). You can start in the Al Fahidi district of Bur Dubai; a testament to Old Arabia, its gypsum buildings and soaring wind towers are a world away from the skyscrapers of Downtown and house a range of traditional cafes, shops and places where you can learn about Arabian and Islamic culture.

Along the Creek you’ll find Al Seef, a mile-long district with modern buildings at one end, charming older structures at the other and winding stone streets in between. You can catch a traditional ‘abra’ water taxi over the Creek to take you into Deira, a district full of Dubai’s famous souk markets, including the Spice Souk and the Gold Souk. For families who want to delve into the history and culture of the place they’re visiting, this is the perfect choice.

Where to stay

For views over Old Dubai and Dubai Creek, opt for a stay in Aloft Dubai Creek. Its spacious rooms have a contemporary style with floor-to-ceiling windows to give guests the best views possible, while its outdoor pool and open-air rooftop cinema offer child-friendly distractions on site.

Read our reviews of the best Dubai hotels

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