Picnics in Abu Dhabi
The best spots that cater to every need, whim and group size Discuss this article
On the greens
The parks and gardens that allow you to picnic on their lawns.
You will have driven past this little neighbourhood park if your daily commute takes you down Salam Street. Located at the junction of Delma Street, Delma Park isn’t the biggest stretch of land, but it’s got a lot going for it. Once you’ve worked up an appetite from playing a few rounds of basketball, or a spot of table tennis, take a breather in one of its kiosks and lay out your blanket. Or find yourself a comfortable patch of grass and set up in the open. The park is also equipped with a running track, an inclined climbing wall and outdoor fitness equipment. Just in case you’ve overdone it with the biryani.
Free. Delma Street-Salam Street.
Green Mubazzara Park
Fancy a drive? How about cruising over to Al Ain’s Green Muzbazzara Park. There are a few good reasons why Al Ain is referred to as the Garden City, and the lush landscape of Mubazzara Park, a top attraction of our neighbouring city, is one of them. Rolling verdant greens run on for miles here. It is located at the base of the UAE’s second highest peak, Jebel Hafeet, with the park also well worth a visit, given its proximity to the 1,249 metre-high mountain.
Feel free to trek up the foothills and test your endurance levels, or dip your feet into the soothing hot springs if you’re feeling a little more languid. Some even bring a tent to camp out for the night. A word of caution, though: the park is a popular attraction, so expect to share the space with other weekend-revellers.
Free. Jebel Hafeet, Al Ain.
You will find paved pathways, tinkling fountains and rock features scattered across this scenic, well laid-out park. It is located at one end of the Corniche strip, next to Mina Port, and is popular with residents who enjoy a leisurely stroll amid the lush, green landscape. You will also find rolling, flat lawns to kick back on and soak up some vitamin D. Those looking to get their grill on will enjoy the constructed barbecue pits. Slides, swings and other kids’ activities will keep the young ones occupied while the grown-ups idle beneath the shady trees.
Free. Corniche East.
This list would be incomplete without a mention of Khalifa Park. And not just because it’s located next to the Time Out office. But because there is plenty here to keep you busy and you can make a full day of fun out of your outing. This massive space stretches across 500,000 square metres and with the Grand Mosque providing a stunning backdrop, it makes for a great photo-opp. You will also find bicycle routes, paddle pools and a shallow river running through the lawns.
There are tables scattered across that serve as a comfortable venue for your group as you set up camp. We suggest not carrying a ton of food and gear with you, as you will need to walk around until you find the perfect patch of grass to plop down on. The sheer size of the park ensures there’s plenty of peace and quiet, and that you won’t be bothered by a noisy group of fellow picnic-goers. There’s also a museum and a library that culture vultures can break away to.
Dhs2. Near Park Rotana Complex.
Date palms dot most of this garden, providing spots of shade for those who visit for a picnic. It’s quite big, with enough space to set up your basket comfortably. A paved walkway cuts through the park, and, given its residential location, it gets a fair number of fitness enthusiasts pounding the pavement outside of office hours. The children’s area is equipped with the usual playground features and there’s a water feature to boot. Although it’s surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the city, once you’re inside it’s quite peaceful. Barbecue pits and kiosks make it a suitable option if you live in the city.
Dhs1, free (kids aged 10 and under). Khalidiya, between 30th and 16th Streets.
Before we go any further, let’s clear up any doubts... Yes, Lake Park does indeed have a lake in it. Catch the reflection of the surrounding buildings in the soft ripples as you lounge around at this gorgeous public space. There are bridges and walkways that add to the charm and increase its Instagram appeal. Just make sure you don’t dive into the shallow water at any point.
The highlight of the park is its 15-metre fountain, which anchors the lush lawns that fan out around it. Visitors are allowed to bring in food and beverages, as long as they remember to pick up after themselves.
Free. Open 24/7. Corniche East.
Yas Gateway Park
There is more to Yas Island than Formula 1, Ferrari World and Yas Mall. Located just off Sheikh Khalifa Highway is Yas Gateway Park. The park is split into two – north and south – with the highway running through the middle. While both halves are lush, developed and well-manicured, the north side is ideal for a large family gathering. It is littered with things that will entertain children across age groups. There’s a sandbox for the younger ones to muck about in, while the older ones can spend time on the climbing equipment. There’s even a grilling area that’s kitted out with individual hotplates. And because it hasn’t been discovered by the main islanders (shhh), there’s enough room to make it an ideal location for relaxing, weekend picnics.
Free. Sheikh Khalifa Highway, Yas Island.
Think outside the park
Go beyond the traditional picnic set-up...
Off to the Island
Located just off the northern shores of the city is Lulu Island. Despite the name, it does not hold the distinction of having the largest outlet of the supermarket chain. In fact, you won’t find many buildings on the island at all. In recent years, development projects have started and stopped abruptly, leaving it pretty much bare. Which is why you should show up, picnic basket in hand.
There used to be boats to take passengers across from Marina Island, but that shored up along with the development. Luckily, the industrious Lulu Boats have filled that gap for visitors. They will usher you across by boat and bring you back safely once your time on the island is up.
Dhs300 (pick-up and drop, maximum of 10 people each way). www.luluboats.com (050 914 9141).
One with Nature
Hold the phone. You don’t need to book the next flight out to Hawaii to be in with a chance to swim alongside dolphins. Dolphin Bay is much closer to the city and can make your dream of aquatic antics come true.
The ideal day-trip, it’s so remote that, once there, the city’s skyline is invisible. What’s even better is that all you have to do is show up and let the kind folks at Captain Tony’s do all the work for you.
Laze about on this untouched beach and enjoy the sea breeze as they set up a simple but tasty picnic spread of sandwiches and salads. If you ask them nicely and in advance, the crew can also prepare a sumptuous beach barbecue while you build sandcastles or dive into the clear azure for a relaxing swim. Oh, and hope to spot a few dolphins.
Captain Tony’s Island Beach Getaway: Dhs400pp, Dhs250pp (kids aged six to 12). Private charter Dhs2,800. Stand up paddle boards Dhs150 (for rent). Food prices vary. Guests are welcome to bring their own food and drinks. Departure dependent on tides – duration four hours. Yas Marina, www.captaintonys.ae (02 650 7175).
On the Beach
Al Maya enjoys a reputation of being a popular party destination among the cool hipsters of the city. But that’s on Fridays. Visit on a Saturday and you will clock families and groups of friends enjoying a chilled-out, relaxing day. Join them and laze around on your towel, soaking in the sun’s rays, away from hectic city life. Shuttle boats can be boarded from Khalidiya Palace Rayhaan to the island. Or, if you prefer, you could rent a boat and have it dock by the beach. Jalboot has an up-to-scratch fleet and offers private charters.
Shuttle from Khalidiya Palace Rayhaan: Dhs100 on Saturdays (includes entrance and use of facilities), Fri-Sat 10am-8pm. Jalboot Private Charters: Prices dependenton category of boat. www.jalboot.ae (60 057 5756).
Out in the Desert
When in Rome, or, in this case, Abu Dhabi, head to the dunes. Yes, even for a picnic. Take a leaf out of the locals’ book, who consider a trek out to the desert sands the ideal way to recharge and regroup with family and friends. You will find desert-devotees driving out to golden sands the minute the weekend approaches, having mastered the art of navigating the slippery slopes and with their usual spot in mind.
Time Out’s own dune-bashing expert’s favourite spot to go to with his friends is the Al Khazna desert. The rules are simple – respect nature and the environment. The desert is home to hundreds of species of plants and wildlife, so act responsibly. If you do plan to light up a barbecue, make sure your vehicle is parked at least ten metres away, and make sure you pack a rubbish bag to store any wrappers and packaging. Ideally, your picnic spot should look the same when you leave as it did when you arrived.
So, what are you waiting for? Fill up the tank in your trusty 4x4, gather your most adventurous mates, pack the essentials and grab your GPS device (don’t leave home without it).
Picnic brunch for the lazy bunch
Because, sometimes, we’re very lazy.
Friday Picnic Brunch
All the fun and none of the work. That’s the motto of picnic brunches. And this one is no different. Hosted at Stills’ terrace, this outdoor do sets up a chilled-out scene for friends and families. The tables are dressed in appropriate red-checked tablecloths and everything that you’ll need comes packed up in a basket. Starters are served directly at your table, while the rest of the food awaits you at various counters. There is live entertainment and games to keep everyone busy.
Dhs145 (soft drinks), Dhs195 (house beverages). Sat 12.30pm-4pm. Crowne Plaza Abu Dhabi, Yas Island (02 656 3000).
Picnic at The Palace
Picnic and palace, usually two words that don’t quite go together. One conveys a tone of casualness and informality. The other is more rigid and proper. But the two come together harmoniously at Emirates Palace (pictured on our cover this week). It’s all made-to-order, so you’ll need to give the team 24 hours’ notice before they set it all up on the lawns. Believe us, though, it’s worth the effort.
Guests can pick from a breakfast feast or an afternoon tea option.
Dhs325 (continental breakfast with bubbly), 8am-10am. Dhs310 (afternoon tea with bubbly), 2pm-5pm. Emirates Palace, Ras Al Akhdar (02 690 7999).
Picnic at the Westin
This deal is an ace option if you’ve got young kids. The six-hour affair takes place every Saturday at The Westin’s casual outdoor pool bar, Shades. Yes, there’s a pool and the brunch entry price includes full access to it. Once you’re done frolicking in the water, a waiter will bring you a basket of starters and your chosen drinks. The menu includes salads, sandwiches, crudités and more. For mains there’s the barbecue area with kebabs and skewers galore. And then of course there are those luscious desserts...
It’s a casual setting with lots of space left between groups, and entertaining activities to try out, so take your time and spend the entire afternoon soaking it all in.
Dhs220 (house beverages), Dhs120 (kids), Dhs355 (two adults and two kids). Every Sat 10am-4pm. Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort and Spa, Sas Al Nakhl (02 616 9999).
Don’t forget to…
• Pick up after yourself. Do not litter the area you set up in.
• Always check the weather before you plan your picnic. You don’t want to be rained out (rare, but it happens!).
• Keep the food simple, it’s a picnic. Your twice-baked cheese soufflé will fall flat by the time you serve it.
• Plan ahead and makes lists of everything you need.
• Carry a few games to keep the kids busy. And maybe the adults, too, while you catch a nap.
Build Your Basket
Pascal Tepper French Bakery
The bakery’s Treat Box includes an array of mini sandwiches, French desserts and buttery croissants (below). Perfect little nibbles for a small gathering.
Dhs200 (for 30 pieces). www.pascaltepperfrenchbakery.com (02 444 4762).
La Cuisine De Manou
The team will prepare a customised lunch box to meet your taste requirements. It could include sandwiches, cakes, salads and juices – it’s up to you!
Lunch box: Dhs50-65 per person. www.lacuisinedemanou.ae (02 552 6608).
Time Out Abu Dhabi,