The temperatures are high, the humidity is draining and the initial joy of school break up has worn thin. However, the UAE has more options than ever before for summer fun, from swim-up cinemas to cooking camps. So whether you live in Dubai or you're simply stopping over en route to somewhere less exciting, read on for an idea of what's on offer.
Sporty kids have a range of multisport and specialist sports camps available, which covers almost every activity including boxing, golf, swimming, cricket, football, hockey, rock climbing, badminton, ice skating, table tennis and table football.
However, if your little darling is more Shah Rukh Khan than Sachin Tendulkar, there are now plenty of outlets for their creativity. Ductac, at Mall of the Emirates, is the centre for all things arty. The Ductac Art Summer Camp for children aged six to 12 gives the chance to explore drawing, painting, ceramics and much more. The centre also hosts art and drama camps.
For those with a musical bent, Jumeirah Music Centre is the place for expanding knowledge and learning new instruments. Hard rock potential is explored at Solid Rock in Barsha, while Dubai Drums offers an exciting outlet to beat out frustration and discover rhythm.
And there is something special for budding scientists too. Mad Science has a summer school with three different exciting programmes during August. The Garden, for four to six year olds, investigates the flora and fauna and helps young biologists discover how things grow, what bugs do and how the weather affects it all. Next stop CSI, with Chemicals, Cells and Crime for seven to 12 year olds.
Young forensic scientists can bone up on fingerprints, DNA, skeletons, organs and chemicals. Moving with science (7-12 years) is for budding builders and evolving engineers as they work on build, design and fixing things, before a walk on the wild side of science. Contact Mad Science on 04 337 7403 or http://www.madscience.org/uae for details.
However, if your children like to have a finger in every pie, enrol them in Etisalat Academy's Summer Sports and Leisure Camp. They can make friends and learn new skills as they engage in tennis, volleyball, football, martial arts, swimming, badminton, dancing to computers and arts and crafts. Designed for four to 14 year olds, the camp runs until September 8. For details, visit http://www.etac.ae/summercamp
A unique culinary camp, now entering its fourth year, is Little Chefs. Tina McFadzean runs week-long sessions for all ages, with each day themed by country, ingredient or style of cooking. She says, "We usually have a pie day, which is very popular. Our country focus ranges from Thailand and Japan to France and Morocco. We will also concentrate on a certain ingredient, such as chocolate."
The groups enjoy foodie field trips once a week. McFadzean says, "It helps the children to understand where their food comes from and how it is made." Naturally, lunch and healthy snacks are included. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details of courses in July and August.
If adults would like to get creative in the kitchen, there are a range of options from top restaurants in five-star hotels, such as Nobu at Atlantis or the French L'atelier des Chefs at Le Méridien Dubai. Perhaps more manageable for most palates and wallets is the new Cooking School at the Oasis Centre, which offers classes in Thai cooking on Thursday, Italian on Friday and Indian on Saturday. Participants can go for individual classes or take a course. Contact the school on 04 515 4051 for the latest schedule.
Ice is nice
Ski Dubai offers the ultimate chilled thrills, no matter what the weather. Where else can you have a snowball fight, toboggan downhill, spin on a tube and enter a snow cavern filled with icy sights and sounds? Adults and kids of all ages enjoy the frozen fun of the Snow Park. There is also the chance to ski and snowboard, from the gentle discovery to the full slope pass for those who are proficient. Don't forget to have a hot chocolate in the café halfway up the hill. See for details http://www.skidxb.com
In Ras Al Khaimah the family can experience the tundra with a twist at the Ice Land Water Park. The UAE's newest water park has a snow and ice theme, from the Penguin Falls to the Arctic Wave, via the Snow River. As well as riding the slides and playing in the pools, the park promises cool activities different from other water parks, such as aqua soccer, Rock Hoppers Den and disco and Tundra Baths. See http://www.icelandwaterpark.com for timings and prices.
Closer to home, you can get instant chills when you eat and drink in temperatures of minus six degrees at the Chill Out lounge, Dubai's only ice bar. Based in Times Square Centre, almost everything in the restaurant is sculpted from ice — tables, chairs, plates, glasses and the ice sculptures of Dubai landmarks. Don't worry, each guest is given a thermal hooded parka and gloves to keep out the cold. Worth a trip just for the photos! http://www.chilloutatdubai.com
The shopping malls have a huge range of options, with Dubai Summer Surprises providing discounts for older visitors and a wealth of fun for kids, with entertainment and displays in most centres.
Dubai Outlet Mall runs an Amazing Thailand festival until July 31, where visitors get to see Thai culture, cuisine and handicraft along with dance performances, craft demonstrations and roaming stilt fashion shows. For every Dh250 spend at any retailer outlet in the mall, customers stand a chance to win daily shopping vouchers worth thousands of dirhams, plus the chance to win an exclusive trip for four to Bangkok every weekend.
Dubai Mall offers superb summer camps for the kids, or the whole family can enjoy the dizzying heights of At the Top, Burj Khalifa, Dubai Ice Rink, Sega Republic or the Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo. Bond with your children by going snorkelling in a secure café for close-up encounters with more than 70 marine species in the mall's ten-million-litre tank.
The less intrepid can take a glass-bottomed boat instead. For some quality shopping time, drop the kids off at KidZania, which offers a range of workshops during the holidays for acting, media, arts and craft and Arabian heritage along with the usual fun featuring 70 role-playing professions. Check out http://www.thedubaimall.com for all the details; special summer discounts are in place until July 31 across all Emaar Retail leisure and entertainment attractions.
Mirdif City Centre's Playnation has something for all ages, with Little Explorers catering for the tiny tots, and the adrenaline rush of iFly and the Sky Trail for the thrill seekers of the family. For a family experience, the Yalla Bowling alley is a popular choice.
Wafi's Encounter Zone has a wide range of entertainment for toddlers to teens, including an indoor paintball arena.
Other activities include the GXpress indoor skate park for roller blades and roller skates and a choice of roller-coaster simulator rides. The Wafi Pyramids also provide a backdrop for the spectacular free sound and light display, with different shows running at 8pm, 9pm and 10pm.
Wet and wild
As well as the usual fun and excitement of Aquaventure water park, Atlantis Kids Club at Atlantis, the Palm has two action-packed summer camps. Children aged eight to 12 years can go behind the scenes and learn about the vast marine life living in Atlantis and even try scuba diving.
Younger playmates can participate in a programme that includes pizza making, creating works of art out of sand and spending time in Aquaventure, while Club Rush offers teens the ultimate hang out experience, where they can escape to a fully supervised ‘No Kids or Adults' environment. See http://www.atlantisthepalm.com for more information.
The Wild Wadi Water Park at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel offers a special Summer Pass, which gives the holder unlimited access and discounted rates for up to four people. The perfect time to give the two new rides a whirl. Check http://www.wildwadi.com for details.
Further away, Dreamland Aqua Park in Umm Al Quwain promises twice the fun for half the price this summer with a 50 per cent off offer on the entrance fee for two, valid until August 31. It also has a range of Ramadan special experiences, including suhoor and an iftar buffet on Thursday and Friday evenings during the month.
Theme for a dream
For a theme-park adventure, take the little tykes to Modhesh World at Airport Expo Dubai, which is open until September 10. More than 40 different areas offer a chance to explore the arts, sports, video games, skateboarding and even the UAE's heritage. Entry costs Dh15; log on to http://modheshworld.com for details.
Up the road, Summer in Abu Dhabi has already kicked off with a range of activities at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (Adnec), running until July 30. Activities in the hall include giant mazes in A-Mazing world, a Circus School and a Ben 10 bootcamp. It is also home to the world's first Smurf Village, featuring specially created activities areas for children, including Papa Smurf's Story Corner, Smurfette's Land of Beauty, Smurf Fun Park and The Promenade — a tricycle track through the entire 38mX22m enclosure.
"Part of Smurf legend is that outsiders cannot find their village except when shown the way by a smurf; thankfully Summer in Abu Dhabi has solved this problem," said Faisal Al Sheikh, Events Manager, Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, which organises the festival. "The Smurf Village is only one component of what we believe is our most exciting Adnec activation yet. There really is something for everyone — young or old."
For the first time, Summer in Abu Dhabi includes a host of deals, discounts and packages at attractions across Yas Island, Abu Dhabi's purpose-built entertainment centre and home to Ferrari World, the largest indoor theme park in the world with more than 20 Ferrari-inspired rides and attractions, including Formula Rossa, the world's fastest roller coaster. For more details visit http://www.summerinabudhabi.ae or http://www.abudhabievents.ae.
Soaked to the screen
The many cinemas of Dubai are an obvious place to avoid the heat, but for truly chilled viewing, head to the Dubai Polo and Equestrian Club for Cinesplash. Every Thursday and Friday in July and August, get your swimmers on and dive into the outdoor pool, where you can laze in a selection of inflatable chairs — or on dry sunbeds if you prefer — and watch a choice of two family-friendly films.
Screenings start at 7.00pm and 9.00pm with pop corn and hot dogs available, as well as the usual pool menu. Entry is free for members, while non-members pay Dh35 for adults and Dh20 for children aged four to 12. For details check out http://www.poloclubdubai.com.
Cabana, the poolside bar at The Address Dubai Mall (http://www.theaddress.com), has rolled out a similar deal for Sunday nights, offering free access to the pool, snacks and select beverages in handy buckets for Dh99 from 8.30pm.