Bucketlist Travels logo

Bucket list ideas:

54 Best things to see & do in Dubai

  • Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Last updated: 15 June, 2024
Expert travel writer: Nicola Chilton
  • Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Burj Khalifa rising above Dubai downtown cityscape high angle view view at sunset. United Arab Emirates modern architecture and travel abstract

Bucket List Experience

Burj Khalifa

At 828 metres, the Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building – truly a sight to behold, whether standing proud against a clear blue desert sky, reflecting the colours of the sunset, or springing to life with lights and LED displays at night.

Gaze up at it from ground level or ride up to the 125th floor, in the lift with the longest travel distance in the world for the ‘At the Top’ experience. The tower’s observation decks offer multimedia presentations about Dubai’s history, and immersive virtual reality experiences. You can even step out onto the world’s highest outdoor observation deck, located on the 148th floor.

Adult price: £30

Good for age: 4+

  • Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Exterior of the museum showing the silver curved building

Bucket List Experience

Museum of the Future

This extraordinary, one-of-a-kind museum offers visitors an insight into what a future world will look like. Interactive exhibits and displays showcase cutting-edge technologies like AI, robotics, and virtual reality that delight, amaze and bamboozle. The highlight of the museum is undoubtedly the Future Lab, where visitors can try out futuristic technologies and even create their own inventions. Kids of all ages will love it here.

Even if you don’t go inside, at least stop by to see the building – an architectural marvel with the metallic facade, smothered in intricate geometric patterns.

From Matt: Highlight for me was the lift you can take to the top floor when you start your visit. It simulates a spaceship launch up to a space station. Brilliant!

Adult price: £35

Good for age: 4+

  • Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Dubai desert safaris

Bucket List Experience

Dubai desert safaris

Due to their often inaccessible locations, unrelenting heat and generally harsh living conditions, deserts are not something we come across or get the chance to experience often – which is why this is such an essential Dubai experience.

First, there are your desert outdoor activities for those with an interest in adrenaline. These include sandboarding, dune-bashing (driving over dunes in 4x4s) and quad biking. A number of more nature-themed safaris head instead to the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, a stunning environment populated with rehabilitated indigenous wildlife, including the once-endangered Arabian oryx and gazelle.

Second, a trip into the expansive desert outside of the city also allows you to tick off a checklist of distinctly Arabian experiences. Many tours will include the option to ride on a camel, watch a traditional falconry display, smoke a sheesha and get a henna tattoo.

Your Lawrence of Arabia desert experience concludes at a Bedouin-style desert camp for dinner, with entertainment supplied by traditional local performers, including belly dancers.

Platinum Heritage and Sonara Camp are amongst the best operators that have overnight camp options. You could then also arrange a sunrise hot air balloon flight – a surreally beautiful way to see the desert.

Some of the desert activities have minimum age requirements; for example, dune buggying is for over-14s only (passengers) or over-18s (drivers), camel riding for over 5s. The sunset dinner safaris are a great experience for children from about 5 upwards.

Adult price: £20+

Good for age: 4+

Duration: 4+ hours

  • Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

A night in the desert

Bucket List Experience

A night in the desert

Desert safaris – that include a checklist of outdoor desert adventures – are one of Dubai’s top attractions. But many miss out on the rare opportunity to spend a night in the desert. When the tour group hordes head back after their Beduin-style dinner, the desert returns to a place of utter tranquillity, overlooked by a carpet of twinkling stars for mesmerising star-gazing.

Luxury local operator Nara offers you the chance to stay a night, or two, at their ‘Nest’ camp. You can go straight there for sunset drinks, followed by dinner. Meals range from simple barbecues to multi-course feasts, with most evenings ending with glasses of steaming mint tea, taken around a flickering fire.  You can try your hand at archery, or perhaps ride a camel, and learn some astronomy –  the starry night sky is magnificent and clear.

Alternatively, you can choose to dine at the Sonara Camp, where dinner is taken in a hollow carved out of the sands, strewn with fairy lights, with an open kitchen and a stage, where the evening’s performances include a whirling dervish and fire show. Dishes infused with regional flavours include lamb shoulder with Ras el Hanout spices, slow-cooked hammour fish from Umm Al Quwain, and roasted cauliflower with tahini. There’s also an entire menu dedicated to vegan guests. Afterwards, you return to The Nets to sleep.

A more budget-conscious ‘desert glamping’ experience of offered by the Hatta Dome Park, where you sleep in specially-created dome tents, with views over the Hitta mountains. For the top-end experience, at a desert oasis no less, then book yourself in for a night or two at the uber-luxurious Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa.

All ages are welcome, but there are minimum ages for activities – for example, children must be 5 and over to ride a camel.

Adult price: £100

Good for age: 13+

Duration: 4 hours

  • Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Dubai’s best food & drink

Bucket List Experience

Dubai’s best food & drink

Emirati food is similar to other Arabic cuisines, with cardamom, saffron, turmeric, thyme and cinnamon as central flavours, but with the city home to almost 200 nationalities, you’ll find a restaurant or café serving dishes from almost anywhere in the world.

In recent years, Dubai has become a serious gastro-hub, with dozens of international celebrity chefs setting up outposts within the city’s top hotels. However, for those looking for more affordable eats, there are excellent and more authentic Indian, Pakistani, Persian and Lebanese restaurants and cafes.

What to try

Harees is a classic Emirati dish to look out for, with small pieces of meat combined with cracked wheat and spices to form a kind of thick porridge. Shawarma chicken wraps are a delicious, omnipresent snack.

For the ultimate sweet treat, Loqaimat are deep-fried dough balls, best-served piping hot with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and a generous pour of date syrup.

Good for age: 18+

Duration: -

  • Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

aerial view of camels racing

Bucket List Experience

Camel Racing at Al Marmoom

Camels have always been an integral and essential part of Emirati life – for milk and meat, for transport, and for entertainment.

Like horse racing in other countries, camel racing is a hugely popular and traditional sport in Dubai – one dating back to the 7th century. Also like their equestrian peers, racing camels are big business. Prices start at $20,000 – the fastest can fetch bids over $2,000,000.

Dubai’s biggest camel racing track, Al Marmoom, located at the Dubai Camel Racing Club, is the best place to experience this lively tradition.

Races, with anything from 15-60 competing camels, last about 15 minutes, and range from 2.5 miles to 6 miles, depending on the weight, age and gender of the camels.

Thankfully, jockeys were banned in 2002 in UAE – the camels now spring in response to prompts from robot jockeys tied to their humps, with trainers following behind in 4x4s.

If you have time, and even if you’re not a typical fan of such sports, a visit to the track is well worth it for a fascinating insight into Emirati culture, tradition and rituals –  and the unique and thrilling spectacle.

Good for age: 8+

Duration: Half day

When: Oct-Apr

Freq: Selected dates

  • Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

With a depth of 60 metres, Deep Dive Dubai adds a new superlative to the city’s attractions. It’s the world’s deepest diving pool.

But this is no ordinary pool. Themed like a post-apocalyptic sunken city, divers can explore a fully-furnished abandoned apartment, play arcade games, sit on a sofa, and shoot some pool, all underwater. It’s a fun, underwater theme park and unlike any other diving facility anywhere in the world.

Don’t worry if you’re not a diver – you can join a Discover Scuba session, or even just snorkel, to get a taste of the experience. Certified divers can explore the true depths, and there are a number of courses designed to help you improve your diving skills.

Especially for under 12s

Children aged 6 and upwards can book in for a special ‘kids experience’ – choose between snorkelling, free diving or tankless scuba diving. If they’re over 10 they can also do a ‘Scuba Discovery’ dive up to 12m.

Adult price: £90

Min age 6

Good for age: 6+

Duration: 2+ hours

  • Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Helicopter flights over Dubai

Bucket List Experience

Helicopter flights over Dubai

Some cities really lend themselves to being seen from the sky – and Dubai is one of them.

Hop in a helicopter for jaw-dropping flights over Dubai’s famous landmarks, from Dubai Creek to the Burj Al Arab and the Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest building), and the man-made Palm Jumeirah and World Islands.

Flights range from a 12-minute short-hop, where you’ll share the helicopter with up to five other people, to 45 and 60-minute private flights. If you’re also planning on visiting the Abu Dhabi, Ras Al Khaimah or Fujeirah emirates, you can book a VIP helicopter charter (and save yourself the drive).

It’s an unforgettable experience that gets you up close to Dubai’s world-famous landmarks, and puts the sprawling desert city in perspective. Children over 2 are permitted, accompanied by an adult, but kids under 12 may find the experience frightening.

Adult price: £160

Min age 2

Good for age: 12+

Duration: 1 hour

  • Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

By many standards Dubai is an exceptional place – when they do something here it’s usually either the biggest in the world, or a world first. Perhaps not surprising then that few, if any, cities can rival Dubai for a family holiday.

Hotels are exceptionally family-friendly, with plenty of bed and bedroom configurations, kids’ meals, space for play and facilities galore (including kids’ clubs). Then, there’s a prevalence of good weather, golden sand beaches and waterparks – a heady mix for any kid.

Even a trip to the shopping mall – usually an occasion of dread for the little nippers – can yield skiing, ice skating, giant aquariums, waterfalls, cinemas, oversized toy shops and more in Dubai’s mega shopping malls slash entertainment centres.

Last, but not least, there there are a ridiculous number of specialist family attractions and activities on offer. Here’s our round-up of some of the best.

Adult price: £15+

Good for age: 4+

  • Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Skydive over the Palm

Bucket List Experience

Skydive over the Palm

One for adrenalin junkies, Skydive Dubai offers skydives over two sites in Dubai: the famous Palm (the Palm drop zone) or Dubai’s nearby desert dunes, 35km from the city (the Desert drop zone).

You’ll jump from 13,000 feet and reach speeds of up to 120 mph, with 60 seconds of freefall. If you can relax enough to enjoy the views, they’re spectacular.

 

Adult price: £200

Min age 18

Good for age: 18+

Duration: 4 hours