Things to do in Dubai
Love it or hate it for its excess, Dubai is on a mission to redefine the modern city. You'll find historical sites such as the Dubai Museum (housed in the 18th-century Al Fahidi Fort), ambitious, cloud-scraping architecture, and endless entertainment (think shopping, amusement parks, indoor skiing, and more).
Many travelers make a beeline for the Dubai Mall, which can feel overwhelming in its vastness. Inside, there's a 22-screen theater; an indoor theme park, called Sega World; an enormous play space dubbed Kidzania; a giant Aquarium with an underwater zoo; and a full-sized ice-skating rink. (Tip: You'll be walking for hours so be sure to wear comfortable shoes.) Don't miss the Dubai Fountain, which stages a daily 6 p.m. show that easily rivals anything that the Bellagio in Las Vegas has to offer.
Not for the faint of heart, the Burj Khalifa is the world's tallest skyscraper at 2,625 feet with the world's highest observation deck on the 124th floor. Also worth visiting is the Walk, the biggest residential construction in the world. It's a great place for watching people—and their cars. Recent spottings include a gold-plated Porsche Cayenne or a two-tone Ferrari. Rev your engines.
A fashion boutique like no other in Dubai—you can enter directly from the street—with clothes by Middle Eastern designers.
As in the various gold souks in the Middle East, gold is sold by the gram in the Dubai Airport, at constantly fluctuating prices. You can also buy gold chains by the meter—the most popular here are the heavy yellow-gold variety.
Behold Dubailand, a three-billion-square-foot outdoor oasis from Tatweer (a government-owned real-estate investment firm) that improbably marries animatronic dinosaurs with a Tiger Woods–branded golf resort and the world's largest water park (with man-made beach and reef, of course).
Part of the Mall of the Emirates, this internal complex houses a good selection of designer labels—and the new Almaz restaurant, by Mourad "Momo" Mazouz.
An ever-changing selection of cars and motorbikes gets raffled off to passengers willing to shell out $139 for a ticket in the Finest Surprise raffle, which has been going on here since 1988.
XVA, an art gallery owned by Mona Hauser, is located in the Bastakiya district and focuses on Middle Eastern and Islamic art. The gallery hosts rotating exhibits from artists based throughout the region, including Arezu, Mohsen Ahmadvand, and Simeen Farhat.
It’s rare that we recommend visiting an airport’s tourism kiosk, but the DTCM is actually worth seeking out. Staffed by the nicest people in the airport (all fluent in English), it functions less as a hotel and day-trip listing facility than it does as a full-fledged concierge desk.
Located off Sheikh Zayed Road in the Al Quoz district, The Third Line gallery displays and promotes regional and Islamic art from artists throughout the Middle East. Featured artists have included Abbas Akhavan, Rana Begum, and Shirin Aliabadi.
If you’re stopping over in Dubai, the likelihood is high that you’ve just gotten off a long flight and are on your way to another. Which means you’ll probably want a shower. The showers in the airlines’ lounges are hit-and-miss (some are truly bad).
The 26 tropical treatment rooms sit on small islands.
There’s free Wi-Fi everywhere in the Dubai International Airport, which is not to say that it works perfectly in every part of the terminals.
Located inside the Mall of the Emirates, Ski Dubai is the world’s largest indoor ski slope. This unique attraction allows tourists and snow-deprived Dubai natives to ski on five runs of varying levels of difficulty, ensuring that even novice skiers can get in on the fun.
Because Terminal 1 is so crowded, finding a place to sit can be difficult unless you gain access to a lounge (or stake out a seat in McDonald’s, Starbucks, or one of the other dime-a-dozen food-court outposts). The new Zen Gardens is a good, free place to sit unmolested and read.
Five Green is the first United Arab Emirates concept store devoted to urban street-wear and art sourced from all over the world. This concept store-gallery holds cutting-edge art shows and performances as well.