Dubai is big (really big), bold, hot and happening. So happening, in fact, that an estimated 20 million people were due to visit the Emirate City in 2020 (before the Covid-19 Pandemic greatly reduced global travel). Skyscrapers as far as the eye can see, some completed, many on the way and many, many more just a glint in a developer’s eye.
So, what tempted us to go to Dubai with a toddler? Isn’t Dubai just beaches, pools and incredibly hot weather?
Well, for many years we thought just that. But slowly, last year we kept hearing how child friendly Dubai was. We heard how much there was to do in Dubai with toddlers. How fun visiting Dubai was. So, we thought, why not? Let’s do a family trip to Dubai.
Dubai with a Toddler – Table of Contents
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Flying to Dubai from London
So, October came around and we embarked on the 7-hour flight from London to Dubai.
It was our 2-year-olds first long-haul flight. She’s been on upwards of 14 short haul flights but long haul flying with a toddler is a different endeavor as we all know! While we were slightly worried, it turned out to be in vain.
The flight was taken up with getting our toddler to sleep on the flight, some screen time (Emirates have a vast selection on their seat back entertainment system), coloring (stickers and coloring books are always part of our 2 year old travel toys) and eating the plentiful amounts of food.
A top tip of ours is to pre-book a child’s meal before you fly, this means they get their meal first and it’s tailored to children so it’s full of things they like to eat like pasta, yoghurts and fruit.
Arriving in Dubai with a Toddler
The first day anywhere is always a bit confusing, especially when you factor in your own jet lag plus dealing with toddler jet lag. When it’s somewhere like Dubai it can take your breath away a bit. We really appreciated that we’d taken our double travel stroller so both girls could take a seat and have a nap when they needed it (I wish I could have joined them!) .
However, we settled ourselves into the rhythm of the city and quickly realized that there are so many attractions in Dubai for kids. Six days would never be enough to cover all the things to do in Dubai for kids, but we gave it a good shot.
Top 5 Things to do in Dubai with Toddlers
While it’s nearly impossible to cover all the Dubai toddler activities in one trip, we were able to hit the highlights in Dubai for toddlers. Here’s a list of our top 5 things to do in Dubai with toddlers.
When I first heard about Dubai Mall, I just thought it would be shops and restaurants. Much like most malls around the world and not the best of the Dubai things to do with toddlers. How wrong was I!!?
Dubai Mall has it all with plenty of Dubai attractions for kids. Here you’ll find the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, a full-sized ice hockey rink, KidZania (where kids get to be ‘adults’ for a day in a mini world), plus access to the Burj Khalifa and Dubai Fountains. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.
If you’re looking for one place with plenty of Dubai activities for toddlers, then this is it!
We also ate here on a few occasions and said to each other we could probably live there for a year and not try it all out. There is a metro line at the Dubai Mall which services most other areas of Dubai and we used it frequently to get about.
A Ski Resort? In the Desert? Yep! It’s pretty big and very cold. While it may not be the first thing you think of when looking for toddler activities in Dubai, just know that it is FULL of fun things to keep the kids entertained for the afternoon. It felt very strange going from the desert heat to the freezing cold but actually it was quite a nice respite for a few hours.
In order to go on the Slopes, you have to be a proficient skier and over 3 years old. From 3 years you can have ski school lessons (with no experience). For the Snow Park, your toddler just needs to be over 2 years old.
We pre-booked our visit to Ski Dubai and ensured we packed warm clothes to wear under those provided at the venue. Remember your gloves and hats, you’ll need them!
You can pre book your outfit hire and this was exceptionally well organized, as we arrived, they had everything ready for us in named bundles. The girls had to wear helmets which is an essential safety precaution given their age (and tendency to trip over their own feet).
Once inside there’s a raft of things to do for anyone visiting Dubai with kids and wanting to spend a day at Ski Dubai. Sledges are dotted around everywhere which were good fun and the play park in the snow was a hit straight from the off. There are Bobsleds, a Tubing Run, Snow Bumpers and a Climbing Wall. You also get One Zorb Ball (Giant Ball) ride each (our eldest who’s 5 loved this as did their Dad but me and the littlest one gave them a miss!).
We watched the March of the Penguins which happens at various intervals throughout the day and our 2 year old adored watching them toddle around. The talk was very informative and engaging. For an extra fee you can have a 40-minute encounter with the penguins.
We then decided to pay extra for the chairlift so that we could see all of Ski Dubai. It was £30 so quite expensive. But the girls thought it was the most exciting thing ever, especially as we stopped half way for a Chocolate muffin and drink in the (heated) ski chalet café.
Entry to Ski Dubai was 190AED each.
Dubai Garden Glow
We found out about the Garden Glow purely by chance. And I’m so pleased we did and recommend adding this to any Dubai itinerary. Dubai is full on and there’s absolutely no denying that. So somewhere calm, with twinkly lights, gentle evening breezes and soft music is a wonderful escape from the mayhem from the whole family.
From the minute you arrive you know it’s something special. While it’s only open during the cooler months (we went in October and I believe it had just opened for its 5th Season), it’s a huge area of outdoor light displays covering everything from butterflies to frogs to flowers and stars. The displays are incredible and really beautiful. There’s loads of room for little ones to run around and explore, or simple sit back and enjoy the displays. Definitely one of the best things to do in Dubai with a toddler.
The Dubai Garden Glow is not the easiest to get to so I’d recommend a taxi (it’s in the city centre but a tricky walk from the Dubai metro).
Entry to the Dubai Garden Glow is 65AED and anyone under 3 years old go free.
A trip to Dubai wouldn’t be complete without a trip up the world’s tallest building (for now at least, this is set to be beaten later this year by a building in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia). A visit to ‘At the Top’ is one that won’t be forgotten in a hurry. I look at the photos I took that evening and can’t believe we saw such a beautiful sight.
It’s not cheap, and costs a bit more to go up for sunset (the peak hours are from 4-6pm), but I’d highly recommend going up for this time as it means you get to see the view in daylight, at sunset and at night. Well worth the expense!
We didn’t buy fast track tickets but the very kind staff saw that we had a young child and a toddler with us and let us skip the queues up to the top (which is a very speedy affair by the way, the lift is the fastest in the world at 10 metres per second).
Once up at the top we had a look around and the children played on the pretend cracking glass floor (they found it hilarious, I found it nerve wracking!). After a while we sat down by one of the windows and set ourselves up to watch sunset. It was so calm our toddler actually fell asleep!
If you are still wondering what to do in Dubai with toddlers, Burj Khalifa should be on your Dubai itinerary!
There’s no time limit on your ticket so once you’re up there you can stay as long as you like, so we were there for a good 2 hours. When it came to going back down again, luckily, we were fast tracked again and down to ground level within minutes.
Entrance to the Burj Khalifa is 224AED for adults in Peak Hours (4-6pm) and 149AED outside of those hours. For children it’s 184AED (Peak) and 114 (non-Peak). Children under 4 go free.
I can’t deny it, this Dubai fountain show was my favourite things to do in Dubai. There’s something really magical about dancing fountains set to music. The popularity of this display shows I’m not alone.
Both our toddler and older daughter LOVED these displays and our 2 year old still remembers it now many months later (I think that’s because they saw a display set to Baby Shark!). Definitely a must when visiting Dubai with a toddler!
We were staying near the Dubai Mall so we saw the fountain display about 5 times. I’m really pleased we saw it more than once as they change the music each time and it really gives a different vibe to the display. There are numerous child friendly eateries around the fountains, the ones with the best views get booked up in advance but twice we managed to eat within sight of the fountains without pre booking.
While the Dubai fountain show does get busy and even though we never got to stand at the front, we could all easily see the displays (they shoot up to 500ft in the air and the display is 295 metres in length).
Where to Stay in Dubai with Toddlers
We rented a Dubai apartment about 10 minutes’ walk from Dubai Mall and the Burj Khalifa. We found the location to be excellent for getting around as so much is centered around Dubai Mall and there is a Dubai metro station there that has excellent connections to other places in the City. Our apartment complex had a pool, which I consider to be essential in Dubai!
The pool in our apartment complex sat 6 stories up in one such skyscraper overlooking the Dubai Frame to the east, and the Burj Khalifa just a few blocks away to the north.
Here are some recommended Dubai hotels with toddlers:
- The Atlantis, The Palm is perhaps the most toddler-friendly hotel in Dubai. With beautiful beaches, a kids water park, playgrounds, lots of family friendly dining options and an incredible aquarium. Parents will love the available babysitting service too.
- The Jumeirah Beach Hotel has a kids club for kids aged 2+ where parents are not allowed. While you go enjoy some kid-free time in Dubai, your toddler will love the extensive list of fun activities.
If you’d like more selection, take a moment to learn how we find the best kid-friendly hotels, then browse this list of family-friendly hotels in Dubai.
How to Get Around Dubai with a Toddler
We found the Metro in Dubai to be superb (in fact, there are 49 stations!). Efficient, cost effective and air conditioned it spans most areas of the city. For other journeys that weren’t covered by the Dubai Metro there are loads of taxis available at most main sights.
We also used our hop on hop off bus tickets for a lot of our sightseeing. We bought tickets from the Big Bus company for all three of their routes which take in all the main sights of the city. We found it to be an excellent way to get around Dubai with a toddler and we never had to wait long for one to arrive.
What to Pack for Dubai with Toddlers
Traveling to Dubai with a toddler was pretty easy, but we would recommend packing these items for a family holiday to Dubai with toddlers:
- A double travel stroller if you are traveling with a baby and a toddler or a toddler and preschooler. It’s so good for giving little legs a break and keeping them out of the direct sunlight.
- A clip on fan for the stroller or a mini hand held fan is a must!
- A toddler travel car seat for taking taxis in Dubai.
- A car seat travel bag makes it easier to carry your travel car seat. Get an extra padded car seat travel bag if you plan to check your car seat.
- If you need an extra bed in your airbnb or hotel, a toddler travel bed is easy to pack. The KidCo PeaPod Plus Toddler Tent or the hiccapop Inflatable Toddler Travel Bed are two great options!
- A toddler airplane bed is perfect for getting toddlers to sleep on the plane. The Seat to Sleep pillow works for kids aged 3 to 10 years old.
Our pre conceived ideas about to Dubai were blown out of the water by our visit to this great city. With so many attractions suitable for young children, it was an incredible place to visit with a toddler and for the entire family.
Never again will I judge somewhere until I’ve tried it. And Dubai….we’ll be back!