Planning a trip to Dubai? In this post you will discover the top 10 things to do in Dubai!
Dubai unabashedly aims to be the biggest, best, and most modern city on earth, and it may be getting close to claiming that title! Nothing in Dubai is done cheap or on a scale that is anything other than world class.
Whether it is the tallest building in the world, biggest shopping mall in the world, or making the impossible possible (indoor ski resort and man-made islands resembling gigantic palm trees), Dubai is willing to spend to spend what it takes to attract tourists.
Where is Dubai Located?
Dubai is in the United Arab Emirates in the heart of the Middle East, just across the Persian Gulf from Iran, bordering Saudi Arabia, and not very far from Iraq and Syria. Just saying the names of those countries makes many westerners cower in fear, but in terms of Dubai, these fears are largely exaggerated.
For a more detailed explanation on why you should feel comfortable visiting Dubai, see my post on, Why you should NOT be afraid to visit Dubai.
The geography of Dubai is the desert you would expect, but what is largely missed is the fact that Dubai features world class beaches across the Persian Gulf.
If you could go back and visit Dubai 40 years ago you would find nothing but sand dunes and a small fishing village. Oil has helped fund the city’s explosive growth, but now tourism is keeping that trend going.
Dubai is now the 8th most visited tourist destination in the world, but getting there hasn’t slowed down their ambitions. There are still tons of ongoing construction projects for additional attractions and mammoth skyscrapers.
This glitzy city isn’t just for oil barons, but is actually affordable enough for the everyday tourist. Below are 10 of the top attractions you can’t miss on a trip to Dubai.
Top 10 Things to do in Dubai
The Palm Islands
These islands are man-made. From pictures it is hard to realize the sheer magnitude of what has been created. Each palm fawn island has beautiful beaches, million dollar homes, luxurious hotels, and shopping malls stretched all the way across.
The best way to see them is to take the subway/tram straight through the heart.
Old Dubai Market (Deira)
Best place for cheap shopping in Dubai!
Not all of Dubai has sprouted up in the last 40 years. If you want to see what life was like before the skyscrapers and luxurious hotels, head down to the old markets (souks). If you want your own traditional jewelry or headscarf, this is the place to get it. The array of textiles and spices seems endless.
This will be the best place for cheap shopping in Dubai. But remember, if you want to buy anything negotiating a price is almost expected.
Visit the Dubai Miracle Garden
Some may find it ironic that the world’s biggest natural flower garden is in the heart of the desert, but with the way Dubai tends to do things, can you be surprised?
The garden features over 45 million flowers fashioned into the most amazing shapes and designs. Too bad I missed this because the gardens are closed in the summer as the flowers can’t withstand the extreme heat.
Buy your Dubai Miracle Garden admission tickets here. (This ticket includes hotel pickup and drop off)
Visit the Burj Khalifa (The Tallest Building in the World)
Not only is the Burj Khalifa the tallest building in the world, but it is almost 1,000 feet taller than its closest competition.
To get up and down, it has the fastest elevator in the world. Whether you go up to the observation deck or observe from the ground, this one is impossible to miss. Skip the lines and buy your tickets to the top in advance here.
There are a few different ticket options for visiting the Burj Khalifa. In Dubai, it is one of the most popular places to visit so make sure to buy your tickets in advance.
Dubai Burj Khalifa Tickets: Level 124 & 125 – This is the most popular ticket option and includes tickets to the 124th and 125th floor. Prices will vary depending on what time you visit.
Dubai Burj Khalifa Tickets & Tour: Level 124, 125 and 148 – This tour option allows you to skip the lines and includes access to the world’s highest outdoor observation deck.
The Burj Khalifa 124 & Lunch or Dinner at Rooftop, The Burj Club – This tour option includes tickets to the 124th floor and a 3 course meal on the 5th floor.
Burj Al Arab Hotel
The Burj Al Arab is the only self-proclaimed seven-star hotel in the world. Even though seven-stars isn’t really a thing, no one seems to question the Burj Al Arab because it fits the bill of ultimate luxury.
This massive hotel is built on its own island in the middle of the Persian Gulf, and is every bit as opulent as it claims.
While there, we could have gotten an incredibly deal at the Burj Al Arab, only $1,500 a night (obviously I didn’t get the experience of staying there). Don’t believe me? You can check current prices here.
Go on a Desert Safari Tour
If you are looking for beautiful places in Dubai, you can’t go to Dubai and not take a desert safari. Quite quickly you can leave Dubai and see nothing but blowing sand dunes for miles and miles.
There are tour operators all over town selling packages. Usually they are around $50 and include a city tour, some 4×4 dune riding, camp fire dinner, and belly dancing. There are also tours that feature camel riding, sand boarding, and so much more.
Best tour options for exploring the sand dunes in Dubai:
The Dubai Marina and Jumeirah Beach Residence Walk
Things to do in the Dubai Marina
This is the most pristine community I have ever seen in my life. Every single brick of every single building is meticulously placed and beautifully maintained.
If you are looking for things to do in the Dubai Mariana, this neighborhood features tons of high rise condominiums, cafes, bars, more shopping malls, beautiful hotels, beach access, and a waterway snaking through the center. I took a water taxi down the waterway and couldn’t stop gawking at the endless amount of perfect buildings.
Here are some of the most popular and best rated Dubai Marina Dinner Cruises:
- Dubai Marina Sunset Dinner Cruise with Unlimited Soft Drinks
- Alexandra Dhow Cruise in Dubai Marina
- 5-Star Buffet Dinner Dhow Cruise around the Dubai Marina
- Dubai Marina Dinner Cruise with Drinks & Live Music
Go shopping at The Dubai Mall
Who wouldn’t want to shop at the biggest mall in the world? The mall is part of a 20 billion dollar downtown complex (yes, 20 billion with a B). It features 1,200 different stores, and is likely home to every store you can think of, plus a whole lot more.
One of my favorite features is that you can access the mall from the airport without ever having to step outside into the scorching heat. The mall is directly linked by air conditioned footbridges (I called them gerbil tubes) to the subway.
Book your tour: Dubai Aquarium & Level 124 Burj Khalifa Combo Tickets
For more details on what to do in The Dubai Mall you can read our full post here!
Ski in the middle of the dessert at Ski Dubai (indoors)
Yes, there is an indoor ski resort in Dubai located inside the Mall of the Emirates (different mall than The Dubai Mall)! While it is not the biggest ski resort in the world, it is legitimate skiing and snowboarding. There are multiple runs and amazing snow (the always keep it below freezing inside, so the snow doesn’t get crunchy).
You can rent all necessary equipment and even take lessons if you like. While inside I totally forgot it was 117 ° F (47° C) outside. The novelty of snowboarding in the middle of the desert is unreal.
The BEST and most popular options for passes at ski Dubai:
- 2-Hour or Full-Day Slope Session at Ski Dubai – Go skiing indoors! This amazing pass includes ski clothing and equipment.
- *Family friendly – Ski Dubai Snow Classic Pass: Unlimited Rides in Snow Park – This Ski Dubai snow park offers activities like bobsledding, tubing, snow bumpers, a climbing wall, a zorb ball (Giant Snowball), and so much more. Great option if you are traveling with kids.
- *Family friendly – Ski Dubai Penguin Encounter Tickets – With this pass you get to “Meet the penguins” during the Snow Penguins at Ski Dubai show that introduces the park’s colony of Gentoo and King Penguins.
Watch The Dubai Fountain Show (for free)
If you have been to the Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas, then you get the idea of what the Dubai fountains are, now just make that idea a lot bigger and more grand.
These fountains are also located at The Dubai Mall and nightly shows feature the fountains spraying and dancing to a vast array of music. The best part about this show is that it is free.
A popular way to see the music and fountain show is by taking a traditional boat tour on the water.
Take a hot air balloon ride
Where to Stay in Dubai:
Element Me’aisam, Dubai – We always love the Marriott line of Element hotels – think clean, modern design, environmentally conscious, with amazing free buffet breakfasts of predominately fresh and healthy food. You won’t be getting the standard sausage and pancakes.
Dubai has a ton of hotel choices – even though our hotel was great, we only booked it because it was dirt cheap with Marriott points and we had a car. It was too far away from the action to stay here otherwise.
If you are looking for something closer to the main attractions check more popular Dubai hotels here.
What places are on your top 10 list in Dubai?
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