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The Best Things to See and Do in Dubai

Bubbly Tourist has been to Dubai several times and it has truly been incredible to watch the city grow and change over the years. Dubai is the most populous city in the UAE and is also the capital of the Emirate, Dubai. Emirates Airline is based in Dubai and makes direct access to the city convenient. You can also reach Dubai in an easy one hour drive from Abu Dhabi which makes seeing these two cities ( each a top destination spot in the UAE) easy to do in the same trip. There is plenty to see and do in Dubai! Read below to learn about the best things that Bubbly Tourist recommends.

The Best Things to see and do in Dubai

1. Palm Jumeirah

Perhaps one of the most iconic islands in the world, this island is entirely man-made and shaped like a palm tree. If you are flying into Dubai, you will want to keep a look out the window for this on approach. Palm Jumeirah is known for glitzy hotels, upmarket restaurants, the Palm Jumeirah Boardwalk, and boisterous nightclubs with live DJs. Book a night on the island at one of the hotels and enjoy the glamour.

Palm Jumeirah's Boardwalk in Dubai; Bubbly Tourist; things to do; places to see
A beautiful walk down the Palm Jumeirah Boardwalk where there's access to plenty of restaurants and nightlife

2. Burj Khalifa

At over a half mile high (830m), The Burj Khalifa is the world's tallest structure and has been since 2009. There is an observation deck called At the Top on the 124th floor and another observation deck on the 148th floor SKY level. In February 2019, the Burj Khalifa opened The Lounge observatory at 584 m (1,916 ft) making it the highest lounge in the world. You can buy tickets in advance for a discount on the Burj Khalifa website. Bubbly Tip: Consider a discounted combo pass for the tower and the aquarium on the website.

Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Fountain, UAE; Bubbly Tourist; things to do; places to see
View from the Observation Deck of the Burj Khalifa of the Dubai Fountain

3. Burj Al Arab Hotel

The most iconic hotel in Dubai is the Burj Al Arab Hotel. Many people refer to it as the sailboat or sail building and it is easy to see why. It is a five star luxury hotel and one of the tallest hotels in the world and contains six restaurants inside. Bubbly Tip: If you want to get in and do not have a hotel reservation, make lunch or dinner reservations at one of the restaurants inside. You'll also be able to park in the hotel parking garage.

Burj Al Arab Hotel in Dubai, UAE; Bubbly Tourist things to do and see; day trip from Abu Dhabi
A view of Burj Al Arab Hotel from the water

4. Snow Skiing in Dubai

Okay, we know it sounds ridiculous but it is indeed a real thing. In Dubai a winter wonderland is available all year round replete with snow skiing inside the Mall of the Emirates. Visiting and need to cool off? Simply head to the mall where you will find ski lifts, real penguins, and attractions like the giant zorbing ball, ice cave, and Mountain Thriller ride. Access to the ski slopes is from within the Mall of the Emirates where you can buy tickets, rent your skis and hop right on the slopes. The ski packages include everything you would need for a day on the slopes such as gloves, disposable socks, ski pants, jackets, helmets and boots / skis (or boards). So no need to pack any of your winter gear!

Mall of the Emirates in Dubai, UAE; Bubbly Tourist; snow skiing, things to do; places to see
Cool down in Dubai's winter wonderland

5. Dubai Mall and Aquarium

Casual shopping, luxury shopping, dining, light show fountains and entertainment are all available at the Dubai Mall. Even if you are simply passing through the mall on your way to the Burj Khalifa, it is worth taking a quick look at the impressive aquarium inside the mall. Want more than a quick look? Head on in and you can walk through the middle of the aquarium as part of its underwater zoo. Once outside the mall be sure to stroll by the Dubai Fountains as you exit. There are a lot of restaurants here and it is a nice spot to enjoy some food and also an excellent place to take pictures of the Burj Khalifa from up close. Bubbly Tip: You can buy a combo pass for the Burj Khalifa Tower and the aquarium at a discount on their site.

Dubai Aquarium at the Dubai Mall, UAE; Bubbly Tourist things to do, day trips from Abu Dhabi
Visit the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo at the Dubai Mall

6. Dubai's Nightlife

On Palm Jumeirah, there are plenty of hopping bars and cool restaurants with amazing views of the city that includes a spectacular light show from the distant ferris wheel. See colored fountains dance along to music as you dip in and out of the numerous beachside restaurants along the Palm Jumeirah Boardwalk. The boardwalk has a variety of restaurants ranging from simple tables on sandy beaches with a DJ to chic elegant dining. Or if you prefer a view, head to one of our favorite rooftop restaurants, Barfly by Buddha-Bar on top of the Hilton Dubai Palm Jumeirah and catch a sunset view. There is a cool vibe generated by the rhythmic music as you chill on the deck or eat from within the restaurant that has been brought outside, by the expansive folding glass doors. Highly Recommended. Bubbly Tip: if you like value (like Bubbly Tourist does!) take advantage of Barfly by Buddha-Bar's happy hour prices while watching an amazing sunset over the city.

Dubai from up top of Barfly by Buddha-Bar on Palm Jumeirah; Bubbly Tourist day trip from Abu Dhabi
Enjoy magnificent views of Dubai from up top Barfly by Buddha-Bar

7. Dubai's Architecture

Just like Abu Dhabi, there is no shortage of creative and eye-catching architecture in Dubai. This is certainly an advantage to being a young country with a lot of wealth. As you move through the city, be sure to keep your eyes up for interesting and innovative designs in the structure and layout of the city and its cityscape. One such example is the Museum of the Future which Bubbly Tourist has not yet been able to visit but has heard good things about and was impressed by the cool spherical structure.

Burj Khalifa and Museum of the Future in Dubai, UAE; Bubbly Tourist day trip from Abu Dhabi; Architecture
Dubai cityscape with Museum of the Future and the Burj Khalifa

8. Discount Mall - Dubai's Outlet Mall

Bubbly Tourist has numerous friends who make sure they head to Dubai's Outlet Mall every time they visit Dubai. There are numerous stores with discounts and it even has the luxury clothing brand, Burberry. We did buy some discounted athletic wear from Lululemon at some very good prices and it is certainly a nice place to escape the heat for a bit. Bubbly Tip: If you're looking for a VAT refund, be aware that you will not see the high refunds typical in Europe. This is because the UAE only has a VAT of 5% that applies to most goods and services

9. Gold Souk

If you're interested in gold, head over to the Dubai Gold Souk with over 350 retailers trading tax-free gold of different carats, designs and weights. There are also precious stones, strings of pearls, platinum and silver available here. It is one of the Emirates' oldest traditional markets. You can bargain at the market, and enjoy better rates when paying in cash. Bubbly Tip: Speaking from experience, driving there and finding nearby parking can be challenging and time consuming because of one way roads and a severe lack of parking spots. You're better off taking the metro or a ferry across the creek to reach the souk.

Dubai's Gold Souk, UAE; Bubbly Tourist day trip from Abu Dhabi
Dubai's Gold Souk

10. Museum of the Future

The Museum of the Future offers an imaginative glimpse into a world that has not yet happened. The building's distinct circular architecture is interesting in itself. It sits within the Financial District and is conveniently accessed by train or by car. Full disclosure: Bubbly Tourist was enthralled with the architecture but did not have a chance to visit.

Dubai's Museum of the Future in the Financial District; Bubbly Tourist day trip from Abu Dhabi
Dubai's Museum of the Future in the Financial District with the train line below it

Fabulous Day Trips from Dubai

1. Abu Dhabi

There is no doubt that Formula 1's Grand Prix is one of the great annual attractions to see in Abu Dhabi. But this capital city of the United Arab Emirates has many other sites and activities that are absolutely worth exploring while visiting. It's only an hour drive from Dubai. Read what Bubbly Tourist recommends as our top 10 things to see and do in Abu Dhabi.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, UAE; Bubbly Tourist top things to see in Dubai and Abu Dhabi
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is only one of the spectacular must see's in Abu Dhabi

2. Dune Bashing and Camel Rides in the Desert

The United Arab Emirates has plenty of options for you to get out and experience the desert. One activity is look for is called Dune Bashing. It consists of riding in a 4x4 (driven by experienced drivers) that go up and down sand dunes at high speeds without tipping over. It's quite exhilarating and can be a bit unnerving when the drivers drive sideways across the steep dunes. The trick is maintaining low air tires which keep the vehicles from rolling over. If this is not your thing or if you are looking for additional activities, consider a camel ride. There are a lot of options for this and Bubbly Tourist recommends a combined camel ride and dinner experience in Desert Park. The excursion included food and live entertainment with authentic music. Prior to dinner, we were given free time to explore the desert and test our skills at sand boarding on the dunes. Both dune bashing and camel rides can be found in Desert Park (which is much closer to Dubai than Abu Dhabi) but they can also be found in Al Gharbia which is in the western region of Abu Dhabi Emirate.

Desert Park in al Badayer Big Red, UAE; Bubbly Tourist; things to do; places to see
Exploring an oasis in the desert at Desert Park

Where to stay in Dubai

Bubbly Tourist made Palm Jumeirah its home base and stayed at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel because of its private beach and views over the water. The hotel is located on the outer "ring" of Palm Jumeirah which is accessed by a bridge. There is only one way on and off the island by car and the bridge to the ring is on the far end of the island. It's not the most accessible of the Palm Jumeirah hotels, but having said that, it is an incredible five star hotel with a stunning beach that made us want to chill and forget about the sight seeing! Highly Recommended. A walkable hotel option would be to stay close to the Boardwalk for convenient access to the restaurants and bars. It's closer to the island's entrance too which makes it more convenient for sight seeing in the city.

Waldorf Astoria on Palm Jumeirah in Dubai; Bubbly Tourist where to stay, things to see and do
Views from the Waldorf Astoria on Palm Jumeirah of their private beach and pool

Bubbly Tourist Bon Voyage!


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