1. Admire the views from the Burj Khalifa
In a city that holds the world record for holding the most world records, where better to start than the tallest building on Earth? To say that the Burj Khalifa dominates the downtown skyline is something of an understatement.
Topping out at 828m, it is twice as tall as any of its neighbours. And where they seem squat and stunted, the Burj Khalifa rises like a sparkling rocket. It has also been likened to a hypodermic needle, but that’s a rather less child-friendly analogy.
The fastest lifts in the world shuttle you 124 floors up to the At The Top observation deck, where the views are simply sensational.
2. Make a splash at Wild Wadi
Set in the shadow of the landmark sail-shaped Burj al Arab, Wild Wadi waterpark features more than 30 rides and attractions.
Toddlers will be quite content waddling between the wave pool and the family play area – focused around a “dhow”, with climbing nets, water cannons, sedate slides and a dumping bucket – and taking the occasional float down the lazy river on a rubber ring.
Slightly older children will enjoy the “master blasters” that propel you uphill on a circuit around the perimeter of the park. Or more confident youngsters can test their skills on a couple of FlowRider surf machines.
Only adrenaline junkies should tackle Tantrum Alley, where four-person inflatables get spun through a series of funnels. The gut-wrenching Jumeirah Sceirah, which drops you out of a capsule down a 120m slide at 80kph, is not one for the faint of heart either.
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3. Hit the shops in the Dubai Mall
For most children, the idea of being dragged round a shopping mall by their parents won’t sound like much fun. Especially when the shopping mall is the biggest in the world, with more than 1200 stores. But this is no ordinary shopping mall.
Come in the main entrance and you’ll be greeted by an enormous fish tank that stretches from floor to ceiling and houses over 30,000 fish. Poke your head into the Souk and you’ll find the skeleton of a 150-million-year-old diplodocus.
On the second floor, children get to run their own city at the educational KidZania, a role-playing attraction that takes playing doctors and nurses to a new level. Then there’s also the 22-screen cinema complex and the Olympic-sized ice rink.
After all that, pop into Candylicious, the world’s biggest sweet shop, before heading outside to the world’s biggest fountain, where jets of water spout up to 140m – higher than the London Eye.
Tim Draper/Rough Guides
4. Explore Old Dubai
It’s worth reminding the kids that Dubai hasn't always been a city of soaring skyscrapers and on-tap entertainment. A morning spent exploring the old Iranian quarter of Bastakiya and the knot of souks across the Creek in Deira will reveal a traditional side of the city that can all too easily be overlooked.
Start in the glittering Gold Souk before wandering through the aromatic perfume and spice souks, where traders sell cinnamon, saffron and frankincense. Crossing the Creek in a little wooden abra is by far the best thing you can do in Dubai for a dirham.
Once in Bastakiya, in Bur Dubai, the oldest part of the city, head for for a traditional Emirati meal served on rugs and cushions in the courtyard of one of the district’s fine old heritage houses.
Tim Draper/Rough Guides