Activities for Young Kids in Abu Dhabi 25

This is a guest post by Keri Hedrick who writes Baby Globetrotters.  Today she is sharing her favourite places to visit with kids in Abu Dhabi.

Keri is an Australian expatriate mum of three under six, who currently lives in Abu Dhabi.  Keri works as a freelance writer and blogger at Baby Globetrotters.  

You can follow her family’s travels around the globe on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Google+.

Most people know about the glitzy and glamorous city of Dubai, but much less is known about its big brother down the road, Abu Dhabi, which is actually the capital of the UAE and the largest of all the Emirates (also the one with all the oil!).

More than just a stopover point when you’re flying with Etihad, let me introduce you to some of the great activities there are for young children in and around Abu Dhabi, a very family friendly city keen to impress its visitors on a grand scale.

kids in Abu Dhabi

What to do with Kids in Abu Dhabi

The Corniche

The starting point for most visitors to Abu Dhabi is this wonderful golden stretch of sand in front of the city skyscrapers called the Corniche.  There are now several public beach areas perfect for families with chairs and shade facilities along the water front (as well as some privately owned beach resorts belonging to big hotels if you want to splash out).  Entrance to some areas of the public beach are charged for at 10dhs just to keep it clean and nice for families.  At the end of 30th street there’s a collection of restaurants, take outs and ice-cream stalls as well as a play park.  The more adventurous may want to hire bikes or pedal cars and cycle the Corniche.

Kids in Abu Dhabi

Corniche Beach

Across the road from the main beach, there is a long strip of parkland (accessible by a number of underground tunnels) with loads of different play parks for different age groups, as well as a splash park area, perfect for cooling off in the heat – very popular with locals in the evenings but plenty of equipment to go around here (rather than the quite small one on the beach itself).

kids in Abu Dhabi

Great heights

Though perhaps not on the same scale as the world’s tallest building the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, Abu Dhabi does have its own share of impressively tall towers, including one with a visitors viewing deck –  Observation Deck at 300 in Jumeirah Hotel, Etihad Towers.   You will see a refreshingly different landscape in Abu Dhabi, a lot more greenery, more spectacular palaces – including the megalithic new Presidential Palace – marinas and the stunning blue waters of the Arabian Gulf.  More than just an observation deck, morning or afternoon teas is included in your ticket (under 3’s are free).  While you’re sipping away, rest assured the kids will be entertained with the action down below and the staff are incredibly accommodating of little people being there despite the quite luxurious setting.

kids in Abu Dhabi

Catch some greenery

The city is slowly but surely opening up more beautiful green spaces to meet the high demand for residents and visitors alike.  Most of our visitors to Abu Dhabi comment that compared to other Middle East cities like Dubai and Doha, Abu Dhabi appears much greener.

We can’t wait to check out the newly open Mushrif  Central Gardens which includes some amazingly gardens and a fabulously designed children’s play area where kids can splash about in a wadi as well as traditional play equipment (bring your towels!).  There’s also a botanical garden with shade house, an animal barn, an evening garden that spectacularly lights up at night and an enormous amphitheatre.  This will definitely become a favourite relaxation spot for us when the weather cools again.

Wildlife galore!

There are two great Zoo options for animal lovers in the Abu Dhabi Emirate.

Just outside of Abu Dhabi, approximately 10 minutes from the airport is Emirates Park Zoo. Perfectly designed for younger children, they can gain a really interactive hands on experience here with animals ranging from zebras and giraffes to smaller domestic animals, monkeys, a reptile house and bird aviaries.  There are options to buy animal feed at the door too which the children love, walking around and enticing the animals to come closer.

kids in Abu Dhabi

Emirates Park Zoo

On a much grander scale, if you venture outside of Abu Dhabi only an hour and a half away you will find Al Ain Zoo -a 400 hectare wildlife park with over 4000 animals. Beautifully spaced out and with appropriate species you would expect to see in the hot climate (though the indoor penguin enclosure does come as a surprise), it is well worth the longer drive out-of-town where you can feed giraffes, catch the miniature train admire the monkeys or watch the rhinos roam. Be warned it is big! You will definitely want to pack your strollers.

Take a step back in time

If you are making the trip out to the oasis city of Al Ain, make it an overnight adventure and also check out Hili Fun City.  A feel of theme parks from yesteryear you can be mistaken for thinking perhaps it’s been abandoned! Not open until later in the day (trap for new players who might be considering an early start to the day), the park springs to life in the afternoons and evenings with thrill rides to suit all ages even from quite small tots through to teenage thrill seekers. Opening times vary so check beforehand and get in early to have the park basically to yourself – though on a quiet day this can mean they alternate which rides are open.

kids in Abu Dhabi

Hili Fun City

Yas Island – “the prime entertainment and leisure destination”

An ideal way to explore Abu Dhabi is to stay on Yas Island.  A man-made island, not only does it annually host the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix each November, it is absolutely packed full of family friendly activities.   It boasts the world’s largest indoor theme park – Ferrari World (though most rides are too small for my munchkins so I have yet to go and review!) as well as the mighty impressive water park Yas Waterworld which has 45 rides! There are three play areas designated specially for kids (all the way down to babies) as well as a big wave pool, a lazy river – perfect for your water lovers even in the summer you can still chill out here.

The island also boasts the huge Yas Mall where kids can enjoy a number of free activities like toy demonstrations in the mega-sized toy shops Hamleys and The Toy Store. At a fee there is a giant Fun Works indoor entertainment centre including soft play – great for hot days where you need somewhere cool to escape to, but our favourite free entertainment here is the slide inside the Virgin Megastore.

kids in Abu Dhabi

Virgin Mega Store – Yas Mall

A little culture?

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque has recently been voted number one attraction not only in the UAE but the Middle East by TripAdvisor readers.  It’s a truly spectacular structure and one of the first buildings you will pass on your welcome to The Capital from the airport or Dubai. There are no specific activities for kids but it’s not to be missed on your agenda, hopefully they will be as awed as you are and enjoy seeing the grown-ups dressed in abayas or kanduras (local tradition dress that can be borrowed for free if you’re not fully covered, all the way to wrists and ankles).

kids in Abu Dhabi

SZ Grand Mosque

Something a bit more out of the ordinary?

The Emirates National Auto Museum, based less than an hour drive outside the capital (but basically the middle of nowhere in the desert!) sits inside a rather odd-looking pyramid. In it is housed Sheikh  Hamad Bin Hamndan Al Nahyan’s personal motor collection – almost bordering on eccentric!  You will see a Dodge Truck housing a four bedroom apartment, the world’s biggest  caravan, as well as a huge array of luxury vehicles, four-wheel drives and even your every day cars in every color of the rainbow.  A must see if you have some little motor enthusiasts in your family!

kids in Abu Dhabi

Emirate Motor Museum

What next?

There is still a load more to come from Abu Dhabi – it is a city constantly under construction and keenly trying to build its image as a family friendly tourist destination.    Starting from 2016, the cultural district on Saadiyat Island will start to open which will house a Guggenheim Museum, The Louvre, a performing arts centre and the Zayed National Museum.   Just up the road on the Abu Dhabi/Dubai border, Dubai Parks & Resorts group are building a giant theme park complex that will include Legoland, Bollywood Parks and Motiongate – only a 30 minute car journey from Abu Dhabi International Airport.

Extra tips for visiting the UAE with young kids

If you are planning your first trip to the Emirates, don’t forget to check out the visitors guide on Baby Globetrotters for some of the customs and etiquette, especially if you’re visiting during the holy month of Ramadan.

The summer months can be incredibly hot but between mid-October to mid-March the weather is great and a perfect time to visit.

You will find accessibility in some parts of down town challenging with strollers, but most of the time you will likely go straight from one air-conditioned car or building to the next.

Seat belt laws are non-existent so either hire a car with infant seats as an extra, or bring your own to be sure if you are planning on catching taxis.

kids in Abu Dhabi

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Which activity would your family enjoy seeing?

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If you would like to write a guest post for Toddlers on Tour sharing your experiences, photos and tips for travel with kids in your favourite destination please send me an email to or go to my Contact Page.

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About Keri Hedrick

Keri is an Aussie Expat who lives with her husband and three kids in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Having children has not stopped them exploring new cultures and travelling the world every chance they can. She started a blog BabyGlobetrotters.Net to help encourage other families they can travel confidently with kids, and enjoy it!

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25 thoughts on “Activities for Young Kids in Abu Dhabi

  • Shobha

    Fab! I spoke to Keri about fun with kids in Abu Dhabi for a podcast I did. Abu Dhabi is indeed great for families, I found it more family-friendly than Dubai next door which is the one everyone has heard of.

  • Packing my Suitcase

    Awesome post!! I have been to Abu Dhabi during my honeymoon for the Formula 1 Grand Prix! I didn’t see much of the city, but I loved the Yas Island 😀 I would love to return and explore more the city!!

    Thank you for joining #MondayEscapes

  • Mary {The World Is A Book}

    These are all great ideas that will keep kids of all ages with different interests occupied for a long time. I didn’t know to much about Abu Dhabi and was never really on my travel radar as much as Dubai was. Thanks for the inspiration and we’d love to visit one of these days. I’m glad to know there are so many family friendly things to do there. I think Yas Island would be the first on the list.

  • Lian rees

    Hey Keri

    We are looking at a family holiday in Abu d, in 2017…. your blog has excited me as an amazing place tovisit with twin boys who will be three.

    Just seeking some advice on accommodation. What area would you suggest, should we go hotel or more relaxed self contained apt.

    Is eating out expensive and kid friendly?

    Thanks in advance.

  • Lisa @ NatureImmerse

    One of the more extensive that I would classify in the “soft play category”. What sets this one apart though is the extensive My Works, as well as your normal soft play. My Works consists of 10 hands-on areas including bake works, car works, energy works, build works, art works and recycle works. I think this one works best when you can get a little group of friends together.

    Fun Works itself at Yas Mall is a massive complex. There is the giant multi-level Wizz Works soft play section, as well as Mini Works for the under 3’s. My only criticism of the soft play here (though this can be true of many) is that the Mini Works and Wizz Works are on completely different levels, this makes it hard if you’ve got tots and bigger kids to keep everyone happy and be in two places at once. It does have the advantage of feeling much more spacious and less claustrophobic than some of the others.

  • Cassie

    Hi Keri,

    Thank you for your post was so good to know all these wonderful places for young kids. I have a 3 says stopover at the end of July (hot I know) before heading back home to Perth and I’m going to be there with just myself and my two kids (2 & 3)
    Would you say it’s fairly easy/safe getting around with taxis? Any advice you have I’d love as I’m super hesitant about heading there alone but want to make the most of it and still see as much as we can.

    Thank you


    • Keri Hedrick

      Hi Cassie
      Let me reassure you, you will be very safe travelling by yourself in a taxi in Abu Dhabi, they are highly regulated and all have CCTV and must strictly keep to the road rules. Their sense of direction sometimes, however…. between major tourist spots you’ll be just fine with the kiddos. As you say it will be super hot so you’ll mostly be indoors, here are a few ideas you can try when stuck inside:
      You will be completely fine travelling on your own with kids here. The expat community is huge and you will frequently see mum’s on their own with kids (albeit most will vanish from tonight for the summer!). You may not get help with things like car seats however but you’ll definitely want to use them when you can at that age. Theoretically, all under 4’s must have a car seat by law but police don’t apply the rule.
      let me know if you have any further queries you can get in touch direct
      Safe travels home.

  • NAtasha ventham

    Hiya thanks for your great blog! We are coming to,Abu Dhabi for Xmas with my 5.5 and 3 year old – I would love to take them in to the desert but most seem to be sunset adventures which will be too much for the youngest. Any recommendations please? Also would there be enough at Yas water world for us? Thanks in advance Natasha x

    • Keri Hedrick

      Hi Natasha. Most kids are absolutely fine with the evening desert tours. They wouldn’t be able to do the dune bashing activities but there’d be plenty to keep them busy around the camps. Sun sets early in mid-winter so activities will be taking place around 5pm, though the dinners can be quite late. I recommend Arabian Nights Village for families – and stay overnight then if little ones do tire you don’t need to wait for the return bus to AD and can put them to bed nearby.

      Yas Waterworld can be a little chilly in December but most of it will be heated water. Yes, you can stretch a full day out of it, or combine it with WB World next door. The 3yo wouldn’t be able to do some of the rides but still enough cartoon characters and shows to keep them happy.

      Do let me know if you have any other Abu Dhabi questions. Keri

  • Sarah Sheikh

    Hey Keri, thanks for sharing the fun-filled activities for all family members it’s hard sometimes to manage the budget when it comes to enjoy the activities with kids as everyone have there own choices but you mentioned some very common interest thing which I believe my kids will definitely love to experience 🙂