I recently had the opportunity to go on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates with my family. We spent two weeks traveling around different areas of the city and exploring the top destinations. A little background on our trip: we had a direct flight to and from Dubai flying on Emirates Airlines (12 hours there, 14 hours back), from Boston of course. We stayed at the Radisson Blu in Deira Creek, which I would recommend! The creek is a cheaper area to stay in and has more of a local feel than a touristy one. The staff at the Radisson Blu are also absolutely amazing! Here is my review of the top attractions we visited on this trip:
- Burj Khalifa
- The Burj Khalifa is the tallest skyscraper in the world at 2,722 ft tall, with 163 floors. We went to the 148th floor and saw a view of the entire city, a truly amazing experience! The standard ticket to this attraction only goes to the 125th floor, but getting the premium ticket is worth it for smaller crowds and a better view. Everything looks so small, and you can even see helicopters flying around at the same height as you, it’s very surreal.
- The Dubai Mall
- This is the biggest mall in the world, and it was very overwhelming! There are over 1,300 stores and over 200 restaurants in the 4 story mall. Although it was amazing to walk around here, I found it hard to shop for anything because of how large it was. The stores I wanted to visit were so far apart it was a little stressful! There’s an aquarium, an ice rink, and a movie theater in The Dubai Mall as well, and I think it would take you forever to walk around the whole thing!
- The Dubai Fountain
- The Dubai Fountain is in the same complex as the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Mall, so it’s easy to do all three attractions in one day. The fountain has shown every half an hour starting at 6 pm, so we were able to watch the first one before getting dinner one night. The Burj Khalifa lights up, traditional Arabian music plays, and the fountains “dance” along to the music.
- The Green Planet
- This is Dubai’s indoor rainforest, with over 3,000 plants and animals. The unique part about this attraction is that very few of the exotic birds, reptiles, or other animals are enclosed in cages. While walking through, tropical birds are flying everywhere around you (if you’re like me, that might give you a little anxiety). We got to touch a python, a cockroach, and other rainforest creatures, or be within several feet of them. Even though the birds freaked me out a little, this was a very cool experience! They also have live rainstorms a few times a day and a bat cave where the bats swarm around you.
- Dubai Miracle Garden
- The Miracle Garden is the world’s largest natural flower garden, with more than 150 million flowers in bloom. It’s like your local botanical garden on steroids. They have more than one flower castle, a smurf village, a giant Emirates airplane, birds, hearts, teacups, and more, all made entirely of flowers. It smells amazing, and it’s one of the most beautiful and fun places I’ve ever been to.
- Desert Safari
- We wanted to experience part of Dubai that wasn’t the city, so we headed into the desert! A guide picked us up at our hotel and we drove about 50 minutes into the company’s desert safari camp. Here, we had half an hour to take photos with falcons and ride camels. Once we were done at the camp, we got back in the SUV to go dune bashing. This… was so much fun! Our guide took us into the desert and drove all around the hills, complete with dangerously sharp turns and getting uncomfortably close to the edges. It was like a roller coaster! We also stopped to go sandboarding, which was also fun but a little scary.
- Dubai Marina
- The Marina is full of skyscrapers, and it’s honestly surreal to stand there and lookup. This was easily my favorite place in Dubai. Here, we went to dinner at a jungle-themed restaurant called Mama Zonia in Pier 7, where the food is delicious and creative and the view is breathtaking. We also took a yacht tour around the area which was my favorite thing we did on the entire trip. The views here are just indescribable, you need to see it in person to believe it even exists.
- Global Village
- If you’ve been to Disney World, Global Village is like Epcot on steroids. There are also lots of countries you wouldn’t see at Epcot, such as Syria, Iran, Saudia Arabia, and other countries in the UAE area. It’s very fun to walk around each country, eat some good food, and explore the theme park with lots of games and roller coasters. The only downfall to Global Village is when you went inside the countries, the decor wasn’t very unique. They all had pretty much the same shops so I wish there was more thought put into the culture of each country.
- Old Souks
- The Old Souks are made to look and feel like an old Arabic marketplace. It’s fun to walk around, but be prepared to be hassled quite a bit by people working their shops. They want you to stop and buy something, and if you do, be prepared to barter a price! But besides that, this is the best place to buy authentic souvenirs such as cashmere scarves and Arabic spices.
Visiting Dubai was one of my favorite traveling experiences, and I would recommend going if you have the opportunity! Its futuristic yet culturally rooted environment is something I’ve yet to find anywhere else in the world.