BC Dubai Abra
Abra ride Image Credit: Shutterstuck

For most of the people living in or visiting Dubai there’s a tendency to assume that there's nothing cheap to do. But as a mum of twin boys I’m always on the lookout for ways to entertain my kids for less. And it turns out there’s plenty of ways you can have fun as a family without putting a hole in your pocket!

Here’s a rundown of places, some known, some new and some you may have forgotten, where you can have great family-friendly day trips on a budget:

1. Abra ride

The creek was once the original center of the city’s commerce and it remains an amazing opportunity to show your kids a different side of Dubai.

Harking back to a simpler time, the kids will absolutely love this experience. Plus, boat rides don’t get much cheaper than this.

  • Location: Bur Dubai (Creekside)
  • Cost: Dh1 per ride
  • Timings: Daily, 5am to 12am (midnight)

2. Dubai Museum

Dubai Fort is located in the heart of Dubai, in the Al Souk Al Kabir area. It’s a perfect place to take toddlers and young kids to learn about the history of this country. There are also a ton of other museums and things to do around this area so get exploring!

BC Dubai Museum
Image Credit: GN Archives
  • Location: Al Fahidi area - Bur Dubai
  • Cost: Dh3 for adults and Dh1 for children (under the age of 6)
  • Timings: Saturday to Thursday, from 08:30 – 20:30, Fridays, from 14:30 – 20:30

Contact +971 4 353 1862

3. The Arabian Wildlife Center

This hidden gem, located in Sharjah, is sure to impress young and old alike. This Sharjah wildlife centre is home to all kinds of desert creatures from reptiles and birds, to nocturnal species. There’s an enclosure where you can view Arabian Oryx and gazelles as well as ostriches, flamingos and many more. You can have hours of educational fun here.

  • Location: The Arabian Wildlife Center is located about 26 KM from the center of the city after the Sharjah International Airport, at Interchange #9
  • Cost: 1 – 12 years – Free, 13+ Dh15
  • Timings: 09:00 – 17:30, Thursdays: 11:00 – 17:30, Fridays: 14:00 – 17:30, Closed on Tuesday

Contact: +971 6 531 1999

4. Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

BC Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque
Image Credit: GN Archives

This is definitely a cultural landmark for any person living in or visiting the UAE. As one of the few mosques that welcomes non-worshipers, the Sheikh Zayed Mosque is named after the great visionary leader and founder of the UAE. You'll be amazed by the intricate artwork on the walls of the mosque. There is a photo opportunity round every corner and I would recommend going around sunset when it looks at its most majestic.

  • Location: Between Maqta, Mussafah and Shaikh Zayed bridges, Abu Dhabi
  • Cost: Free
  • Timings: Saturday to Thursday 9am to 10pm, Friday 4:30 pm to 10pm

Contact +971 2 419 1919

5. Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary

BC Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary
Image Credit: GN Archives

This sanctuary is home to tens of thousands of migrant birds every year and, located not far from the hustle and bustle of Dubai, this area is one of the few protected urban areas in the world. If you visit during the winters the flamingos are sure to steal your heart!

  • Location: Ras Al Khor, Dubai
  • Cost: Free
  • Timings: Saturday to Thursday 9am to 4pm

Contact +971 4 606 6822

Read more: 6 of the best Dubai kids’ camps to book last minute for spring break

6. Jumeirah Archeological Site

Whenever we travel I always love to visit historical places, but in Dubai you tend to see the glitter and less of the heritage unless you really look for it. I was thrilled when I came across this archaeological site right in the heart of the city. A visit here will transport you back to the Abbasid era, between the 9th & 11th centuries.

  • Location: Al Wasl Road, Dubai
  • Cost: Free
  • Timings: Sun-Thursday 8am – 2pm

Contact +971 4 349 6874

7. Global Village

Global village
Image Credit: GN Archives

Most of us know about family favorite Global Village which has been around for more than 20 years now. But it really is one of my favorite activities to do every season with the family. You have everything you could need: from shopping to entertainment, rides and food from all around the world! A top tip – If you really want a good bargain then go towards the end of the season when the shopkeepers are keener on selling their stuff off.

  • Location: Sheikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Road, Dubai
  • Cost: Dh15 per person, children under 3 are free (They also have family deals)
  • Timings: From Saturday to Wednesday from 4:00pm – 12:00am (entry gates closed at 11:30pm) Thursday, Friday and Public Holidays from 4:00pm – 1:00am (entry gates closed at 12:30am) Mondays are dedicated to Families and Ladies only.

Contact +971 4 362 4114

8. Rise Dubai Creek Harbour

Rise Dubai Creek Harbour
Image Credit: Supplied

If you’re looking for a place that children of any age can enjoy then I would recommend you head to Rise. Located on the banks of the historic Dubai Creek, which is also the site for a future waterfront development, here you will find entertainment, edutainment, and retail stores galore. Every weekend they have different events planned for the kids to keep them well occupied for hours.

  • Location: Ras Al Khor, Dubai
  • Cost: Free
  • Timings: Every weekend Friday 12:00pm – 11:00pm & Saturday 12:00pm – 10:00pm

Contact events@emaar.ae

9. Al Rawabi Cow Farm

Al Rawabi Cow Farm
Image Credit: GN Archives

The Al Rawabi Dairy company is a leading dairy and juice company in the UAE. At its farm in Al Khawaneej, Al Rawabi has a cattle stock of 13,000 cows. You can take a tour of their farm where you get to see the entire process of milk production to how their cows are kept. The little ones are sure to enjoy this tour! Send them a mail on the email address below giving details about how many members of the family you’d like to visit and the preferred date and time. They’ll get back to you with a confirmation or will request a reschedule based on availability.

  • Location: Al Khawaneej
  • Cost: Free
  • Timings: Every weekend Friday & Saturday

Contact farmtour@alrawabi.ae

10. Movies

There are a couple of places where you can watch movies for free in the open or get two for the price of one. Why not make use of this while the cooler weather lasts? Here are some of my top picks:

Movie at West 14th Steakhouse

  • Location: West 14th, The Palm
  • Cost: The movie is free, food and beverages charged separately Timings Every Thursday Kids’ Movie: 6:30 pm Classic Movie: 8:30 pm

Contact +971 4 512 9298

Rise Dubai Creek Harbour

  • Location: Ras Al Khor, Dubai
  • Cost: Free
  • Timings Every weekend Friday 12:00pm – 11:00pm & Saturday 12:00pm – 10:00pm

 Contact events@emaar.ae

Du Tuesdays

If you have a Du number then on Tuesdays you can buy two tickets for the price of one at VOX cinemas all over UAE.

Read more: Raising expat kids: How to embrace their third culture

11. FunCity on Mondays

We all know how difficult it is to get the kids out of a play area or kids zone and how pricey these places can end up being! But with FunCity’s Funday Monday, you can let you kids play at a super affordable price. All year long, every Monday, guests can enjoy big rides, kiddie rides and video games just for AED 1 each!

  • Location: Various Malls
  • Cost: Dh1 per ride/game
  • Timings: Every Monday

Contact 800 3862489 (800 FUNCITY)

12. Al Qasba boat ride

Unwind with your loved ones on a relaxing traditional Abra boat ride under the stars. This waterfront journey gives visitors a once-in-a-lifetime tour of the lagoons and offers a panoramic view of the walkways, bridges and skyscrapers of Sharjah.

  • Location: Al Qasba, Sharjah
  • Cost: AED. 15 for adults, AED 10 for children (aged 4- 10 years old)
  • Timings: Saturday – Wednesday: 4:00 p.m. – 12:00 midnight, Thursday – Friday & Public Holidays: 4:00 p.m. – 1:00 a.m.

Contact +971 6 525 2444

13. Al Thuraya Astronomy Centre

Expand their minds with the Al Thuraya Astronomy Centre, which houses a planetarium where families can view the wonders of the universe during an impressive space show. Alternatively you can visit the Astro Cinema which screens documentaries and sci-fi movies. See the schedule here.

  • Location: Mushrif park
  • Cost: Dh20 per ticket
  • Timings: Planetarium show – Friday, 5.00pm to 10.00pm, Astro cinema – Every day, 6.00pm to 8.00pm

Contact +971 4 2216603 / +971 50 6246172

14. The Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project at Al Naseem

The Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project at Al Naseem
Image Credit: Supplied

Jumeirah Group’s Al Naseem Hotel runs The Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation project in collaboration with Emirates Wildlife Protection Office. With the project they rescue, care for, protect, and rehabilitate sick turtles, while also raising awareness of the threats faced by marine turtles. The enclosure is open to the public every day of the week and once a week on Wednesdays they allow the public to feed the turtles.

  • Location: Jumeirah Al Naseem
  • Cost: Free
  • Timings: Turtle Feeding – Wednesdays 11:00am

Contact +971 4 301 7198

15. Ripe Market

The Ripe Market Abu Dhabi
Image Credit: GN Archives

One of my favorite places to visit would definitely be the Ripe Market that takes place every week at various locations in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Here you’ll not only have the chance to purchase some fresh produce but also shop for local fashion and attend fitness workshops while the little ones enjoy the various activities and arts and crafts on offer. Foodies also won’t be disappointed as they have plenty of food stations and trucks.

  • Locations: Dubai - Academy Park, Umm Suqeim; Abu Dhabi – Umm Al Emarat Park
  • Cost: Free
  • Timings: Academy Park - Fridays 9am-7pm; Saturdays 10am-7pm Umm
  • Timings: Al Emarat Park – Every Saturday 3:00pm – 9:00pm

Contact +971 4 315 7000

Read more: Mini yogis: Why toddlers are loving the ancient practice of yoga

16. Sharjah Discovery Centre

At the Sharjah Discovery Centre children learn while they play. You’ll find the centre divided into seven different sections to entertain the kids, including a Drive Town, Airport, Build Town, petroleum refinery, TV studio, Climbing Walls, Sound Zone and an area dedicated to teaching the human anatomy.

  • Location: Sharjah Discovery Centre located on Sharjah airport road between interchanges 4 and 5, opposite Sharjah Classic Cars Museum and Sharjah Airport.
  • Cost: Children (under 2 years): Free, Children (2-12years): 5 AED, Adults (13+ years): Dh10
  • Timings: Saturday to Thursday: 8:00 AM - 8:00 PM, Friday: 4:00 PM - 8:00 PM

Contact +971 6 558 6577

17. The Yard

The Yard
Image Credit: Supplied

This new destination, located in Al Kawaneej, is sure to become a very popular hangout. Still under development and open to the public since January 2018 it boasts an organic farmers market, air-conditioned and outdoor restaurants, shopping outlets, a lake with two bridges and beautifully landscaped picnic areas. It’s also home to Dubai’s 'lock' bridge where as you can put a personal message on a lock and attach it to the bridge.

  • Location: Sheikh Zayed Road
  • Cost: Free
  • Timings: Every Saturday 10:00am – 2:30pm (from November 4th, 2017 – March 31st, 2018)

Contact +971 4 590 4333

18. Dubai Garden Centre

Garden Souq is held here every Saturday where they have plenty of activities and free workshops for kids while Dubai Garden Centre is a beautiful place to be for kids and adults alike: a little green oasis tucked away in the hustle bustle of the city. Plus, you won’t have to go far for your breakfast or lunch as they serve some great food at the Roseleaf Café located in the centre.

  • Location: Sheikh Zayed Road
  • Cost: Free
  • Timings: Every Saturday 10:00am – 2:30pm (from November 4th, 2017 – March 31st, 2018)

Contact +971 4 590 4333

19. Children’s City

Children’s City is located within the beautiful surroundings of Creekside Park and is an amazing place to visit for children aged between two all the way up to teenagers. Here they can learn about the world that we live in by investigating, exploring, playing and discovering. They have several exhibits related to Earth, nature, space, the human body and computer and communications workshops, as well as a planetarium and a dedicated toddler’s area.

  • Location: Creek Park, Dubai
  • Cost: Family Entrance (includes 2 adults and 2 children from 2 – 15 years) – Dh40, Single Entrance Ticket – Children - Dh10 and Adults – Dh15 - Children’s City entrance tickets doesn’t include Creek Park entrance tickets. Creek Park Tickets fees are Dh5.
  • Timings: Sunday – Thursday 9:00am – 07:00pm, Friday – Saturday 2:00pm – 08:00pm

Contact +971 4 334 0808

20. Playhouses in Mushrif Park

Mushrif Park
Image Credit: Aiza Castillo-Domingo

This one is a personal favorite as I have so many childhood memories of going to this park every year for our annual school picnic. This desert park is a large protected area with indigenous Ghaf woodland. But what the kids will love is their replicas of traditional houses from all over the world. They have 13 models of Arabic and English houses in their international village.

There’s also a swimming pool, covered areas, BBQ areas, playgrounds for kids, courts to play volleyball and basketball and a cycle track.

  • Location: Al Khawaneej
  • Cost: Dh3 per person, Dh10 per car
  • Timings: Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, & Wednesday from 08:00 am to 10:00pm Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and official holidays from 08:00 am to 11:00 pm

Contact +971 4 288 3624

BC Karishma Whabi
Karishma Whabi with her boys Image Credit: Supplied

Karishma is an Indian expat, born and raised in Dubai. She’s a freelance events planner and mum to twin boys, who keep her on her toes most of the time. She blogs about her life with the boys and her eternal quest for new places to visit with her family. You can follow her journey on Instagram at @notjustamommydxb

Read more: “Why do Dubai schools want to assess my two-year-old?!”