Top 10 Things To Do In Dubai

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 the international 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.

Top 10 Things To Do In Dubai

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.

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 this 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.

Note – All of these places listed would be great places to visit in Dubai for kids as well as adults.

Top 10 Dubai Tourist Spots

1. The Palm Islands

The Palm Islands Dubai

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.

 2. Old Dubai Market (Deira)

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.

Find all: Most popular hotels in Dubai

3. The Dubai Miracle Garden

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.

Dubai Miracle Garden
Hover over the image to pin it for later.

 4. The Dubai Mall

Dubai Mall fish tank

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.

For more details on what to do in The Dubai Mall you can read our full post here!

5. Burj Al Arab Hotel

The Burj Al Arab

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, I was told that we were so lucky, and that we could get an incredibly deal at the Burj Al Arab, only $1,500 a night (obviously I didn’t get the experience of staying there).

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 also houses 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. Buy your tickets to the top here.

Find all: Hotels in Dubai

7.  Ski Dubai

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). 

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.

You can rent all necessary equipment and even take lessons if you like.  While inside I totally forgot it was 117 ° F outside. The novelty of snowboarding in the middle of the desert is unreal.

8. Go on a Desert Safari

Go on a Desert Safari

One of the most beautiful places in Dubai!

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. 

Book your tour! There are tour operators all over town selling packages. Usually they are around $50 and include a city tour, some 4×4 dune crashing, camp fire dinner, and belly dancing. There are also tours that feature camel riding, sand boarding, and so much more. Here are some tour options if you are interested in exploring the sand dunes in Dubai.

9. The Dubai Marina and Jumeirah Beach Residence Walk 

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.

 10. The Dubai Fountains

Dubai Fountain show

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.

What places are on your top 10 list in Dubai?

Here are some more posts that will help you plan your trip to Dubai!