17 Exciting Things To Do In Dubai

The tallest buildings. The most expensive cars. The biggest malls. The coolest nightlife. That’s Dubai for you in a nutshell – a fascinating city whose sheer extravagance inspires awe. America may be the land of plenty, but Dubai takes it a notch higher.

The mainstream things to do are plentiful and more than account for the regular traveller’s seven-day trip to Dubai. But what happens when you’re there longer? When the sheer scale of grandeur simply doesn’t hold your attention anymore.

Admit it, you need a break from all of it. So, here’s the good news – there’s tons of other fun, offbeat stuff to do in Dubai. Here are our top 17 picks.

Date Tasting At The Deira Market

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Date palm tree plantation is so ingrained in Emirati culture that the farmers treat the date trees as family members. While we don’t particularly recommend getting that involved, we absolutely do recommend trying out this delicious fruit of the region.

Take a trip to the date section at the fruit and vegetable market in Deira, where you can sample some of the best dates in Dubai. Added bonus: you can get a taste of the local life as you stroll through this traditional food market, which is colourful, lively and welcoming.

Riding The Urban Zipline By XLine

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If you’re an adrenaline junkie, this is your thing. Ride the world’s longest urban zipline at speeds of 80 kmph, while taking in some breathtaking views of the Marina.

This is XLine’s second zipline in Dubai, the first one being over the Dubai Fountain. The Marina zipline is better in almost all ways – it’s longer, faster and affords a generally better view.

Word of caution: There are restrictions to participation – age and weight, for example. Pregnant women aren’t allowed. They also won’t let you through if you’ve consumed liquor.

Taking A Traditional Abra Ride

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Abras are traditional wooden water taxis that are used to ferry people across the creek. And while you can experience an abra ride in Dubai Canal, Dubai Marina, or even the Burj Khalifa Lake, it is the one across Dubai Creek that gets our vote.

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An abra ride is a great way to see the city from a different angle. Get a glimpse into Dubai’s past, with views of traditional Middle Eastern architecture, and also experience its present, with the frenetic water traffic that now takes place on this famed trade route. You can choose to rub shoulders with locals by sharing one, or rent one for yourself by the hour.

Experiencing Global Culture At Global Village 

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This seasonal cultural extravaganza encapsulates the diversity that defines Dubai. Global Village is a lot of things – theme park, entertainment, handicraft shopping, food – all rolled into one. There are 25 countries represented in this open-air event and experiencing all those cultures in a matter of a few hours is a unique and enlightening experience.

Global Village has been around for over 20 years and now attracts more than 5 million people a year. It is safe to say that Global Village is tried and tested. Yet, somehow, inexplicably, it doesn’t show up in the mainstream Dubai itinerary.

Taking A Treatment At The Talise Ottoman Spa

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There are spas, and then there’s the Talise Ottoman Spa in the luxurious Jumeirah Zabeel Saray Hotel. This multiple award-winning spa is the largest in the Middle East, and possibly the most opulent. Everything about it, from its grand carved turquoise doors to the use of sparkling marble and mosaics, is pure decadence.

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The Turkish Hammam in the Talise Ottoman Spa is a thing of beauty and must not be missed. There are over 40 different services to choose from, including massages, facials and body treatments. You can sign up for day packages that include a selection of their most recommended treatments. There is even a goat milk jacuzzi treatment that’s supposed to be out of this world – it’s guaranteed to leave your skin as silky and refreshed as Cleopatra’s.

Image via taliseottomanspa

The service quality at this spa is impeccable, and the treatments are innovative and effective. The decor is magnificent. After all that sightseeing and shopping, this is the ultimate place to go for some self indulgence.


Car Racing At Dubai Autodrome

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You know that ‘I wonder what that would be like’ feeling when you’re just walking along the road and a supercar roars past you? At Dubai Autodrome, you don’t need to wonder it anymore.Get the experience of a lifetime ad you push the throttle on some of the very best cars out there, including Ferraris, Porsches, McLarens, and an actual Formula1 car on a beautifully designed circuit.

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These cars go from 0-100 in about 3 seconds and have over 500 horsepower engines – the growl from the engines is spine-tingling. The track has a nice straight patch for you to let the engine rip and turns to test your skills. The team is knowledgeable and their tutorial before you take-off is quite helpful. It’s just an overall awesome experience if you’re a motorhead.


Exploring The Camel Market In Al Ain

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There are over 400,000 camels in the UAE and they have been domesticated for the last 2,000 years. They are ingrained in Arab culture and, to this day, are considered prized possessions. There is a festival called Al Dhafra in Abu Dhabi that hosts beauty pageants for camels with big cash prizes up for grabs. While Al Dhafra might leave you feeling a little perplexed, a trip to the Camel Market in Al Ain, Dubai, where you can get you up close to these gangly creatures while soaking in the vibrancy of a unique market, is fascinating.

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Trading takes place early in the morning and that’s when you should be planning your visit. It’s entertaining watching traders negotiate hard with buyers, as their camels lounge about with nonchalant expressions on their face. The Al Ain camel market is loud, noisy and dusty, yet so very lively. It’s definitely worth a trip!

Taking The ArtBus Tour

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Art lovers can hop onto these comfortable air-conditioned buses and be driven through the art hubs of Dubai: Al Quoz, Downtown and the Al Fahidi Historical neighbourhood. Each bus is hand-painted by artists based in the UAE and gets a fresh look every year.

The guides on board shed light on the galleries and the art on display, and are generally well-informed and friendly. The tour also provides passengers with literature that they can refer to on the drive.

The flip side? It’s only open 3 to 4 days a year in mid-March.


Discovering The Bastakiya Quarter

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One of the oldest neighbourhoods of the city, the Bastakia Quarter is a reflection of what Dubai must have been like before all the development. It was built in the late 1800s by traders from Iran and, with its narrow alleys and old architecture, it seems like not much has changed.

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The lanes are pedestrianised and there are cafes, art galleries and boutique hotels everywhere. (We highly recommend the Basta Art Cafe.) This area also houses what most believe to be the oldest existing building in Dubai – the Al Fahidi Fort – that was built in the late 1700s to protect the town from raiders. You can also spend time at the Dubai Museum, which is housed inside the fort.


Horse Racing In Meydan

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Horse racing is a rich man’s indulgence. And when you add Dubai level money to that, quite expectedly, you get the best quality experience for a day at the races. Meydan hosts the prestigious US$ 35 million Dubai World Cup, and is open from late October to mid-April. With great seating and awesome views, the Meydan Racecourse is the discerning punter’s delight. The horses seen in these parts, often owned by the wealthy Sheikhs, are some of the finest and most expensive in the world.

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You can also visit the Meydan Racecourse for a stable tour to get up and close with the thoroughbreds.

Adventure Sports In Ras Al Khaimah

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This lesser-known emirate is an hour-and-a-half away from Dubai towards the north, and is the ideal getaway from the city’s pace and lights. It is the staycation destination of choice for Dubai residents, and we see why – it’s quiet, has beaches with awesome resorts, and is set by the impressive Jebel Jais Mountain.

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There’s enough to do in Ras al Khaimah to make a weekend out of it – there’s water sports and some very nice hiking trails and rock-climbing points. But if there’s one thing you MUST visit Ras al Khaimah for, it’s the worlds longest zipline from UAE’s highest point in Jebel Jais. This exhilarating zipline is 2.83 kilometres long with epic views of the rugged landscape along the descent at speeds of 150 kmph.


Riding A Hot-Air Balloon In The Desert

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Imagine floating over the desert in the wee hours of the morning as you watch the sun rise in the horizon. If this is the kind of thing that interests you, you’ll love taking a hot-air balloon ride in Dubai. Your operator will usually pick you up from your hotel at around 3.30AM and you’ll be back by 8AM. If you book with Balloon Adventures Dubai, you can choose to fly with falcons and have a gourmet breakfast as part of the experience, although there are other operators who offer a cheaper price but without the breakfast and falcons.


Getting A Taste Of Bollywood At Bollywood Parks Dubai

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You KNOW Bollywood is big when it has its own theme park outside of India! This one’s got live entertainment, over-the-top stunts, movie-themed rides, restaurants, shopping – all with a big dose of Bollywood and spread over 1.7 million square feet.

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The park has 5 distinct zones, each with its share of a total of 16 attractions that are all movie-related – think Lagaan, Sholay, Dabangg, and more. You can grab a bite at one of the six restaurants on site. Go in for coastal-style food from Mumbai in a full-sized reproduction of a train in their restaurant, Victoria Station, or enjoy modern and authentic Indian delicacies in the royal darbar-themed restaurant, Mughal-E-Azam Dining.

There’s a shop where you can take silly pictures with studio props, or you can buy yourself a Bollywood-themed T-shirt at Bollywood Haat. There’s lots to do here, and if you dig Bollywood, you’d certainly enjoy this experience.


Enjoying The Chill At The Chillout Ice Lounge

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Speaking of unusual and offbeat things, can you imagine freezing in -6 degree temperatures with snow around you in a desert? We thought not! But in the wonder that is Dubai, you get to do just that. Visit the Chillout Ice Lounge, which dubs itself as the Middle East’s first sub-zero lounge. Located in Times Square Center, it features ice seating, tables and sculptures illuminated by shades of pink and purple, and you’re given a coat as you enter to withstand the cold. But, of course, this being Dubai, there’s no alcohol sold – instead, feast on a range of hot chocolate, mocktails, cakes, and light bites, making it a family-friendly experience.

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Having A 23-Carat Gold Ice Cream At Scoopi Café

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Granted, Dubai is the land of excesses – and no amount of bling is too much for it. But did you imagine that this trickles down in their food and drink, too? If you ever feel like you haven’t indulged yourself enough, go try the 23-carat gold ice cream at Scoopi Café.

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Known as the Black Diamond, this liquid nitrogen ice cream is freshly made and frozen right before serving and contains Madagascar vanilla, saffron from Iran (the world’s most expensive, of course), and black truffle slices from Alba in Italy. It is then covered with edible 23-carat gold powder and gold flakes. And if all of this wasn’t too much, there’s further bling in the form of a Versace bowl and silver spoon, which – mercifully – the café lets you keep.


Playing A Round Of Camel Polo

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The ‘ship of the desert’, or camel, is ubiquitous to Dubai. If you’re as fascinated with this animal as we are and enjoy an exhilarating yet unusual experience, camel polo is for you. Played in a minimum group of eight, you will be picked up from your hotel and taught the ropes of the sport, which has originally been the domain of kings.

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No kind of prior riding experience is required and the operator will arrange for a polo T-shirt, riding equipment and soft drinks for you throughout the experience. Each participant will be accompanied by a trainer who controls the direction, while you, the passenger, gets to hold the mallet and score goals. Competitive, exhilarating and oodles of fun, this is one experience you shouldn’t miss!


Getting Lost Amid Flowers At Dubai Miracle Garden

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A visit to Dubailand may be on your mainstream tourists’ itinerary, but delve a little deeper and make sure you visit the Dubai Miracle Garden. Set in the heart of Dubailand, this Instagram-worthy garden has 150 million flowers, sculptures, and displays and is the recipient of two Guinness World Records (for the largest vertical garden in 2013 and the world’s largest floral sculpture, forming the shape of an Airbus A380, in 2016). From aeroplanes and butterflies to entire townships and birds, you’ll find it all made in flower form here.

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