If you plan on going to Dubai, you probably already know that it’s a place that boasts extravagance and luxury. All the money and effort deposited into the most popular destination in the UAE will definitely carve an impression on you. I’m in awe of all the craziness that was built in this city.
However, in my honest opinion, there’s a small lack of identity, despite the grandiosity of its facades. But maybe what Dubai lacks in culture, it makes up for with its entertainment. Dubai has a lot to offer, and probably has the most unique and captivating attractions in the world. Here are 10 unique experiences not to miss in Dubai!
1) SOUK MADINAT JUMEIRAH
Souk Madinat was built to provide an authentic and traditional souk experience. Imagine running through the streets with Aladdin! It houses a large amphitheater, a plethora of kiosks selling souvenirs, and restaurants with a splendid view of the Burj Al Arab.
2) DUBAI MALL
The world’s largest mall in Dubai has an ice rink, an aquarium, and a zoo inside of it. It is huge and always packed with people. You can spend hours and hours running around enjoying all the entertainment available to you, or you can shop ‘til you drop!
3) DANCING FOUNTAINS
You can see the world’s largest choreographed fountains in Downtown Dubai at the Dubai Mall, with a backdrop of the Burj Khalifa. The show replays every 30-ish minutes. Surprisingly, the crowd forms fast and thick, even though the replays are frequent. The music was the best part!
4) BURG AL ARAB, DUBAI
I give the Burj Al Arab credit for being the most unique looking building among the others. The construction of the Burj Al Arab intended for it to be a “symbol of modern Dubai” with a design that resembles the sail of a ship. The fact that it sits on an artificial island made specifically for it, is insane. I shouldn’t be that surprised anymore, though, of Dubai’s go-big-or-go-home mentality.
Since the Burj Al Arab is a 5-star hotel, I’m sure the experience of staying there will be even more impressive. I saw the Burj Al Arab during the day walking along Jumeirah Beach. While I didn’t revisit to see it against the beach sunset, it is much recommended if you have the time.
5) SKI DUBAI
If you’re up for it, you can go indoor skiing at Ski Dubai located in the Mall of Emirates. Crazy, huh?! Rental gear and fees for the day are about $60-70 USD per person.
6) PALM ISLANDS
In order to see the largest man-made, palm-shaped islands, you must be high up. If you’re adventurous and willing to pay, you can take a helicopter ride to see the islands from the sky.
Tip: While browsing through a few forums for any other clever ideas, someone mentioned that you could go up the Marriott Harbour Hotel & Suites to order a drink and catch a view of the Palm Islands. My testimony is that this is possible, although I wasn’t able to snatch a seat by the windows to see the Palm Islands, so I decided to skip the drinks here. For an easy glimpse of the islands, I recommend making a reservation to get a window seat and order some food and drinks here. It seems like an affordable way to see the Palm Islands without spending too much or trying too hard.
7) GOLD, SPICE, AND TEXTILE SOUKS AT THE OLD MARKET “GRAND DEIRA”
You can easily take the metro to a stop near the Old Market, outside of the city’s glitz and glam, where you’ll experience the real souk atmosphere! It’s not a true experience unless you can haggle for souvenirs. You can buy colorful pashminas and adorable trinkets after haggling down ridiculously marked-up prices. As you wander through the markets, you’ll inevitably cross dedicated shops for gold, spice, and textile!
8) MIRACLE GARDEN
If you have been wondering what it’s like to dive down the rabbit hole to Alice’s Wonderland, pretty sure this comes close. There are so many colors and strange flower exhibits. It isn’t enough for me to tell you — go take a look at this Emirates flower plane and more for yourself!
Taking a taxi in Dubai turned out to be pretty inexpensive. The Miracle Garden is a bit out of the city, but the taxi costs less than $20 USD (conservative estimate). Tickets to access the garden totaled $21 USD for two people. I went on a Monday around 10 AM (garden opens at 9 AM), and it wasn’t too crowded. It took about 2 hours to explore the place.
TIP: You can pay by credit card at the main entrance, but bring cash if you want food or anything else inside. Most of the vendors don’t take credit cards.
9) HORSEBACK RIDING
I had a lot of fun doing this as a beginner, despite the massive body pain afterwards. It is funny to think that you can learn how to ride a horse in the desert in Dubai. When I signed up, I didn’t think too much about it and thought we’d only be walking or taking it lightly. It urns out, we were taught to walk, trot, and canter all in 1.5 hours. Then, we were expected to canter back from the desert for the last two miles, which felt like FOREVER. As a beginner, I suffered a little bit, but I made it through!
If you love horses and have riding experience, I would highly recommend doing this! The desert ride is amazing. We booked with Dubai Desert Horseride Experience, and they were hospitable and friendly the entire time. The guide even served me tea afterward, while I caught my breath before heading back to the hotel.
10) BURJ KHALIFA
The Burj Khalifa, in my opinion, outshines all other skyscrapers. It’s super tall, sleek, and a muted shimmery-shiny. I saw it on the way walking from the metro stop to the Dubai Mall, and it stood there looking magnificent. I caught the Burj Khalifa as the sun was setting. The skyscraper lit up and shimmered into the night. I was mesmerized.
TIP: When you get off at the Dubai Mall metro stop, instead of going through the walkway that connects the metro to the mall, take the exit and make your way to the mall from the outside. You will find a nice view of the Burj Khalifa and a perfect photo op!
Dubai hosts some of the world’s most unique attractions. I hope this post has inspired you to visit and experience them all for yourself!
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