Your Guide to Christmas in the UAE - Part 2
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Your Guide to Christmas in the UAE - Part 2

It may be cold outside elsewhere in the world, but in the UAE temperatures are at their best. If you’re looking to make the most of the cooler seasonal climate, or simply wanting to enjoy the festive mood, we’ve lined up some of the best winter family activities around the region.


Your Guide to Christmas in the UAE - Part 2

Missed Part 1? Check it out here

Dine Al Fresco

Winter is the perfect time to enjoy a little al fresco dining in the UAE and many residents take the opportunity to pack up a picnic and head for one of the region’s parks. Mushrif park allows cars inside; ideal if you plan on bringing the whole kit and cabodle. Creekside Park is another great option, with barbecue areas, lawns or a desert garden in which to stake your spot and watch the boats. pick a patch of sand in the desert garden, and watch the boats come and go along the creek. There are plenty of great family-friendly restaurants with outdoor seating and a great view. Here are some favourites:

  • Boardwalk at Dubai Creek has a huge terrace and is a firm favourite with families who come for the sophisticated yet relaxed ambience, delicious breezes and stunning views from the creek. Hire one of the famous BBQ Doughnuts for a memorable floating BBQ out on the Creek.

  • There are few nicer settings than Park Hyatt’s stunning ocean-front restaurant at Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi, and the weekly Friday beach BBQ has proven a big draw for family groups who come for the delicious spread and cooking stations, and to hear the resident DJ spin relaxed chillout tunes.

  • Families flock to Le Boulanger at the cornice mostly to enjoy the huge outdoor terrace that looks out to sea, but the food isn’t too bad either. Expect lots of Lebanese and Western dishes, and shisha for those that like to partake.

  • Prego’s Italian restaurant at the Rotana hotel hits the spot with locals who come to enjoy delicious food - including homemade pastas and super thin pizzas - on a fabulous terrace with resident DJs. The brunch is well regarded too.

  • A modern deli-cum-bistro, 1762 recreates a hip, slick European vibe and serves delicious fresh food with a healthy, light touch. There’s also plenty of outdoor terrace seating on which to eat it.

Celebrate National Day

Celebrating the UAE’s independence from a British protectorate, National Day happens on the 2nd of December each year but encompasses a whole host of events and shows to commemorate the event. Abu Dhabi’s Corniche plays host to a huge firework display while various cultural shows and events take place across the region. Yas Island’s decorated car parade is one of the highlights and 2013 will witness a record-breaking bid to enter the Guinness World Records.

Participate in Traditional Winter Sports

  • Hit the slopes at Ski Dubai’s Ski School. If you purchase an Alpine Package via theplaymania.com it includes a complimentary snowboard or ski lesson and two 50 percent discounted slope access passes.

  • If ice skating floats your boat, Dubai Ice Rink offers 30-minute lessons to private groups of up to five family and friends for AED 155 per person, or consider an intensive week-long course consisting of four 30-minute lessons, in mixed groups of up to 10, for just AED 550 per person. Little ones will love the cute Penguin Pals skating aids to help them balance. 

Participate in Winter Sports, UAE Style

  • While many Europeans traditionally head for snowy alpine slopes, the winter season in Dubai presents the ideal climate for locals to hit the slopes too, desert style, of course. Dune surfing, or sandboarding as it’s also known, is tons of fun without the worry of an icy tumble. From the nail-bitingly high dunes at Liwa Oasis - the world’s largest - to more manageable and novice-friendly slopes nearer to Abu Dhabi, there are options for the whole family to enjoy. A truly unique and memorable family experience, particularly when combined with a 4X4 day safari.

  • The Emirati winter season has another unique sporting tradition: Camel Racing. These docile dromedaries may lack the grace of racehorses, but the stakes are just as high, with prize camels commanding seriously big bucks. The Annual Dubai Camel Racing Festival held at the Al Mamoun racetrack on the Dubai Al Ain Road, is a fantastic opportunity to see the national sport up close. The sport is strictly monitored by the Emirati Camel Racing Federation and child jockeys were replaced long ago by little remote-controlled robot versions. Entrance is free. February 4th to 6th, 2014.

  • Dhows are one of the region’s most iconic emblems and these graceful, white-sailed boats - traditionally used by pearl fisherman - can occasionally be seen bobbing about in the ocean or harbour. Winter is also racing season, and the ideal time to catch a rare glimpse of an entire flotilla of dhows at full pelt, a stunning and not-to-be-missed spectacle, and a great opportunity to experience an important facet of Emirati heritage. Races run throughout the season.

  • Kite flying is hugely popular at this time of year, and Dubai plays host to an International Kite Festival where enthusiasts and visitors can watch, compete and show off some skills. There will be kite workshops and a play area just for kids too.

  • Daredevils may prefer the more adrenaline-fueled thrills of kitesurfing. As one of the world’s fastest growing sports it’s even attracted local Royalty, with Sheikh Ahmed Bin Hamdan Bin Mohamed Al Nahyan winning gold at the 2010 Al Gharbia Watersports Festival. The region’s wide, flat and windy beaches provide the ideal conditions for the sport, and December to May is the best time of year to practice it because winds are strong and temperatures bearable. Kitefly Dubai offers top quality, internationally qualified professional instructors and adheres to a strict safety code. Located right on Kite Beach in Dubai, they have a number of courses, both on land and in water, for all levels.

Hit the Beach

Take the opportunity to sit on a beach in comfort when temperatures are at their best.

  • Push the boat out early and make a day of it at the swanky Quay Club, with it’s gorgeous, private 2 km strip of sand, located right on Jumeirah Beach looking out to the Burj Al Arab. At AED 750 for adults and AED 500 for kids it’s not particularly cheap, but that includes AED 250 redeemable against food and drinks, and you’ll feel like royalty thanks to impeccable butler-style service, shady cabanas and even free buckets and spades for the kids. You’ll also have access to two hotel pools and free beach towels.

  • The beach at JBR near The Walk is a family friendly - and totally free - alternative, and has a wide, golden sand stretch of beach lined with plenty of restaurants and juice bars.

Shopping Festivals

Shopping still ranks as one of the region’s most popular activities, and winter presents some exciting opportunities for a little retail therapy thanks to a number of shopping festivals held around the region.

  • The annual Dubai Shopping Festival is a 32-day extravaganza aims to show ‘Dubai at it’s best’ with a packed schedule of shows, events and activities for every age, held across the city.

  • Global Village Dubai is a vast, annual multicultural, retail and entertainment festival that opens its doors throughout the winter season until mid March. Some of this year’s entertainments include a Bollywood dance troupe, Polynesian dancers, a performance with Aboriginal Australians and African shows with artists from Ghana and West Africa.

  • Experience a winter wonderland theme at the Mother, Baby and Child Show held at the Dubai World Trade Centre. The show will feature plenty of big name brands, many offering discounts and free samples. Little visitors will love the play areas, fairground attractions and festive market, and each child will take home a gift and have the opportunity to pose for photos with their favourite characters. December 12th to 14th, 2013.

  • For something a little more authentic to the region, the renovated and atmospheric Bastakia Souk presents a charming slice of old Dubai and hosts an arts and craft fair on Saturdays during the winter months.

Christmas Markets

Nothing says Christmas more than a festive market in the European tradition, and these markets are a sure-fire way to get in a festive mood.

  • The Dubai Christmas Festival is a three-day event of seasonal fun, with a Santa’s Grotto, carol singing and international acts, a Christmas Cookery Theatre, a fairground, ice rink and of course a traditional Christmas market and plenty of demos, tips and crafts to inspire.

  • The Swiss Christmas Fair will be held outdoors at the Beach Rotana Hotel Abu Dhabi, and recreates the magic of a Swiss Alpine Village, with freshly baked cookies, fondue and Raclette tasting, and, of course, plenty of Swiss chocolate. Guests are invited to join in with the school choir and a percentage of proceeds will go to charity.

Go to the Theatre

Panto is a firm tradition in the UK during the festive season, and so to mark the occasion, treat the family to one of these fantastic shows running in the region’s theatres.

  • Peter Pan and Tinkerbell - A timeless classic performed at the Dubai Media City Amphitheatre during the Dubai Christmas Festival this December.

  • A Very Snowy Holiday Show performed at Centre Stage Arts Theatre - based on the best-selling book by author Diana Hendry and illustrator Jane Chapman, this musical winter's tale features puppetry and a glittering snowy set that will enchant kids and adults alike.

  • Beauty & The Beast - a heart warming (non Disney) musical classic performed on stage at the Madinat Theatre by players from the Barnyard Theatre.

  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs - a true pantomime experience with this hilarious take on the classic tale performed at Centrepoint Theater, DUCTAC at the Mall of the Emirates.

Family Fondue Fun

Grab a bunch of family and friends and prepare to dig in to a traditional European style fondue. Try one of these venues for a convivial and fun meal.

  • The Agency at The Madinat  - a well regarded fondue venue, and you can even sit outside on the terrace and enjoy views across the water to the Burj.

  • Movenpick Dubai run a dedicated Fondue evening that wows locals with its cheese, beef and chocolate versions.

  • Vintage at Wafi Pyramids is a hugely popular, if more grown up fondue experience held every Friday and Monday night.

  • APRES - situated at Ski Dubai with decor resembling a chic Alpine ski-lodge, this sophisticated restaurant is the place to go for a more up-market take on the fondue experience.

     

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