With almost year-round sunshine, fabulous beaches, fascinating forts, desert adventures, world-class theme parks, spectacular wildlife, and activities to suit all interests, the emirate of Abu Dhabi is a brilliant family holiday destination – all the more so given that it’s only a seven-hour flight from the UK.
Abu Dhabi’s three main regions – the UAE capital and its environs, the ‘Oasis City’ of Al Ain (the Eastern Region) and Al Gharbia (the Western Region) – combine to offer visitors 400km of pristine coastline, 200+ natural islands, vast swathes of serene desert (a major filming location for Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens), flourishing mangroves and lively, cosmopolitan cities.
And while it feels exotic, Abu Dhabi is easy to navigate with kids, with good road systems, car hire by major international firms and inexpensive taxis. English is widely spoken, and most road and shop signs and restaurant menus are in English as well as Arabic.
Note that the attitude towards dress is fairly liberal in Abu Dhabi, but revealing/tight clothing is best reserved for the beach or around the pool.
Things to do with kids in Abu Dhabi
Admire more than 13,000 free-roaming animals at the Arabian Wildlife Park, including Arabian oryx, gazelles, giraffes, hyenas and cheetahs. Guests at the Desert Islands Resort & Spa by Anantara can take 4x4 nature and wildlife drives here, accompanied by expert staff.
Make a splash at futuristic Yas Waterworld with its 45 rides, slides and attractions, five of them unique to Abu Dhabi. Highlights include a 238m-long, six-person tornado waterslide and a 3m-high standing wave for flowboards and bodyboards.
Check out Wadi Adventure, Arabia’s first man-made white-water rafting, kayaking and surfing facility, also featuring Arabia’s largest go-karting track, a low-ropes obstacle course, a waterski and wakeboard park, a family swimming pool and a kids’ splash area.
Get speedy at Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, the world’s first Ferrari theme park and largest indoor theme park to boot. Its 20+ thrilling rides and attractions include the world’s fastest rollercoaster, Formula Rossa, reaching up to 240km/h, and the rollercoaster with the world’s tallest inverted loop (52m), Flying Aces.
Venture to Hili Fun City, the Gulf's oldest theme park and one of the best-value family days out in Arabia.
Hire bikes and cycle along the Corniche – an 8km stretch of manicured waterfront with play areas, cafés and restaurants, and a lifeguarded beach park.
Head for Jubail Island, a green lung for the city and home to migratory birds, six types of crab and nearly 50 mollusc species and an array of migratory birds. There’s a mangrove boardwalk and plans to add kayaking, viewing terraces and a playground.
Discover the new Jebel Hafit Desert Park south of the oasis city of Al Ain, with outdoor adventures including guided hiking, cycling and glamping and tent camping in a setting of archaeological and historical remains (the UAE's first UNESCO World Heritage Site).
Fly high at CLYMB™ Abu Dhabi, with the world’s biggest indoor sky-diving flight chamber and tallest indoor climbing wall (43m).
Visit Al Ain Wildlife Park & Resort, which is home to more than 4,000 animals, a petting zoo, picnic areas and playgrounds.
Check out the magnificent Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, which with its 82 domes, 1,000+ columns and 24-carat-gold gilded chandeliers is guaranteed to amaze, whatever your age. There are free guided tours.
Indulge in a spot of retail therapy: all the major shopping malls have kids’ zones and crèche facilities.
Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, Yas Island
It's easy enough to find child-friendly international favourites in Abu Dhabi. In Yas Mall (linked to Ferrari World), ROGO’s has 30 individual rollercoaster tracks that loop around you to deliver your food to your table.
Yas Waterworld, Yas Island
When to go to Abu Dhabi
Blue skies and high temperatures can be expected for most of the year in Abu Dhabi with its subtropical, arid climate. The annual maximum is around 42°C on a summer's day. November–April are the cooler months and most pleasant time to visit, with temperatures around 24°C by day and 13°C by night.
The Abu Dhabi Summer Season coinciding nicely with the UK school holidays sees concerts, comedy acts and kids' shows all across the emirate. Shaun the Sheep, the gang from Sesame Street, Hello Kitty and Britain’s Got Talent finalist Jamie Raven have all appeared over the last two years. It's also in summer that many of the top hotels offer their best deals.
Abu Dhabi has high living costs, but competition makes its many upmarket hotels relatively affordable through regular deals and discounts.
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Flying time7hrs All flight times are based on flights from UK London airports, to the capital or nearest destination airport.
Carbon footprint6.05 CO2 Estimated tonnes of CO2 produced for return flights for a family of four.
CurrencyUnited Emirates Dirham
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