People are often surprised that the fast-paced and futuristic city of Dubai is family-friendly. But when you consider the fact that nearly 90 per cent of its population has resettled there from abroad, and that a vast chunk of that percentage has either moved there with the aim of improving their children’s quality of life, or are sending the majority of their salaries back home to provide, it makes more sense. Family is the lifeblood of the emirate, and it’s reflected, firstly, in the service. We’ve seen wait staff dance around restaurants trying to entertain our little one, experienced teams of doormen who remembered their name every day and restaurants that adapted menus to suit their young palate. It’s also obvious in the way many Dubai hotels are designed, with adjoining rooms and imaginative water parks and kids’ clubs. That’s not to mention the year-round sunshine, which helps make everything easier – or the world-class air-conditioning and well-positioned shaded areas, for those more nervous of the hotter times.
A couple of parenting hacks: car seats are available in taxis when you arrive, though if you’d rather not be faced with having to fit it yourself, head for the slightly more expensive pink Dubai Taxis, driven by women. For the journey back to the airport, download the Careem taxi app which works like Uber but easily allows you to book a car with a kids’ seat. And always ask if the hotel can have your room ready with swim nappies, bottles, creams and other suitcase-filling paraphernalia – typically in these hotels, they can.
When you’re not off on a desert safari, on a sandy public beach, riding Ain Dubai, the world’s largest observation wheel, or charging around one of the city’s other unique attractions such as the Dubai Parks and Resorts or IMG World of Adventures theme parks – these hotels are where you should be, as selected by ourselves, along with dozens of local Dubai parents.
Centara Mirage Dubai
Best for: the little details – and competitive price
This huge 607-room, relatively new Thai-Arabian hotel has gone the extra mile to attract families from the outset. As well as cute touches such as face-painting at check-in, there are three age-specific kids’ clubs with busy rosters of activities, a candy-themed spa for children and a family lounge with both brightly coloured soft furnishings for the smaller people and afternoon tea and cocktails on hand for the bigger ones. Outside you’re on the waterfront with access to two beachside pools, waterslides, a lazy river, an inflatables zone and splash play area and cliff jumping points. In the evenings, watch out for crowd-hushing theatrical displays such as Dueling Fire shows. Room decor is simple and fresh with either sea and beach or city views – and the prices tend to be stand-out reasonable.
Price: Rooms from about £149
The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort and Marina
Best for: the insider’s water park
Its name may be outrageously long but that’s nothing compared to its private beach – at 500 metres, it’s one of the longest anywhere in the city. While the rooms, bars, restaurants (especially good for those with gluten allergies) and spa are all appealingly pampering for parents, it’s the attached Jungle Bay Waterpark, inspired by the Cyclades and open since early 2021, that families come for. With its numerous slides, including a Lighthouse mat racer ride, Whizzard and Body Slides, Aqua Play, a splash park with no age restriction, more gentle kids' slides, 6-metre pneumatic ’Family Waves’ pool and pretty, big cabanas, it may be less wild than some of the city’s bigger waterparks, but it’s also typically less busy and ideal for keeping children of different ages entertained for several days. Also open to guests at Le Méridien Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort and Marina (which means if you book tickets to the waterpark alone, you get access to both hotels).
Price: Rooms from about £250