If I had a pound for every time someone asked me if Abu Dhabi was family friendly, I’d have about £7 now. It’s somewhere we’ve popped into once before as one of my oldest friends lives there (she’s not “old” old, we’ve been friends since we were about 4 years old). And since we’ve been to Dubai about 6 times we decided, with the added bonus of the flight tickets being cheaper, we would check out Abu Dhabi.
It really is very family friendly and there’s a lot to do there for both kids and adults. It’s the capital of the UAE and it reminded me of a calmer kind of Dubai; a bit more residential, but still a lot to keep you entertained for a good few days.
These are just some of the things we did and a couple of things we didn’t do that we definitely would want to next time…
Playing on the hotel beaches
They have some fabulous beaches in Abu Dhabi, both public and private and we spent a lot of time on our hotel one. Everywhere has a light sandy and huge stretches to play on and we built sand castles most days. The heat in November (when we went) reached about 31 degrees and can still get really hot around midday so you definitely need suncream. I believe it can reach up to 50 in the summer which is the same as Dubai and that would be way too hot for me, but some people would adore it! We loved just lounging about and the baby even tried to eat it on occasion. I’m pretty sure he didn’t like it but that didn’t seem to stop him trying every so often. The sea was nice and warm and super salty so the 5 year old was thrilled at finding he floated a bit more easily. I think it built his confidence in the water a bit more but, for now, he still has his arm bands glued on.
Abu Dhabi Ferrari world
This was my biggest surprise of our trip. I was fully expecting a place with a lot of cars to admire and then a handful of rides that wouldn’t be kid friendly. We didn’t really do much research but knew that we wanted to see it. It’s Ferrari, so you have to don’t you? I was really pleasantly surprised to find it’s REALLY kid friendly. They have so many soft play areas and kid friendly rides and we ended up spending the best part of the day there. I think it would be ideal for 8 and above but we managed to go on a lot. Next time we do need to book some things in advance though to get the most out of it. It is what I call “theme park pricey” but you can find lots of deals online to save some money and hopefully the tips I’ve put in my Ferrari world post might help someone. They really are beautiful cars and you have to admire them close up. You can read all about our trip here.
Visiting the Corniche
The cornice is a huge stretch across the western front and has been awarded the blue flag status which is the internationally renowned eco-label for beaches. They have a huge sandy beach and it’s a brilliant place to just play, or cycle across their cycle paths or have a go on their outdoor go karts. It’s overlooked by their business and financial hub and there’s a lot of skyscrapers to admire if you like architecture. We had a fun evening of go-karts there. The other half was coming down with the bug that the kids had caught and the poor guy spent a lot of time looking queasy and sitting quietly. I didn’t know it at the time but I would get it about 3 hours after that and we, very very luckily, would end up changing our flight to a day later.
The Sheikh Zayed mosque
This mosque is such a brilliant piece of architecture. It is a stunning place to visit to admire all the symmetry, the beautiful Swarovski chandeliers, the intricate detail and just the sheer size of it all. I would highly recommend going at least twice, once in the day time to see the white marble in daytime and once at night when it’s all lit up. You can see my nighttime photos of it all here. Entry is free and you do need to cover up but they will give you a gown to wear if you don’t have anything with you. Everywhere seems to love kids there and here is no different. The little ones can have a good run about the courtyards whilst you admire it all.
I had never heard of how big brunches were in Abu Dhabi, or indeed anywhere in the Middle East, but they are really impressive. Like a super sized British brunch (and more), they are held every Friday across a lot of hotels and have everything from classical brunch food to more extravagant lobster, Italian food, Indian food, amazing desserts and a lot of cuisines in between. You can make the mistake of having breakfast beforehand not knowing just how big these brunches are but they are worth the experience at least once as they go on for hours and are very delicious. We had the one at the Fairmont hotel in Abu Dhabi and we loved it. You can see all those photos here.
The Yas Mall
We spent a lot of time in this Mall. It’s huge and there’s so much to do with kids! We loved eating at Rogos, where all your food comes down on loop the loop mini rollercoasters and then spent time wandering about the place. Everywhere seems to have play areas and, at one point, we stumbled into a huge toy shop that had a life size Optimus Prime on one side and a humongous Barbie castle on the other. We had to drag the boys out of there eventually.
There were a couple of things we didn’t do that I definitely would like to go back for one day. Yas waterworld is a huge water park targeted at all ages and has around 45 water slides. It looks huge as you drive past it and people do rave about it. We decided to give it a miss as the boys had only just recovered from their bug but would love to if we ever went back. And the last place we definitely need to go next time in the Emirates palace. Oh and there’s the Grand prix too. I’m not too sure if that’s kid friendly but I do want to see that at least once.
It’s a place I’d highly recommend to families as well as couples or groups of friends. There’s enough to keep you entertained for a good few days and you can easily pop to Dubai too in about an hour in a car if you prefer a much more jam packed holiday. I loved the relaxed feeling Abu Dhabi offers and I think we’d definitely go back …maybe next year!