Cycle, walk or jog arounda Formula One track
While the world’s eyes will be on the impressive Yas Marina Circuit once a year as the Abu Dhabi GP roars into town, top-class facilities are put to good use for the benefit of Dhabians the rest of the time. A few times a week at TrainYas, it’s open to the public to cycle, walk or jog around the exact 5.55km track where Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and their rivals burn rubber each year. It’s truly a beautiful setting for a workout with a real difference.
Free. Sun, Tues, Wed 6pm-10pm. Yas Marina Circuit, Yas Island, yasmarinacircuit.com.
Grab an ice cream on the Corniche
Everybody loves ice cream. Well, except Friends’ Ross Geller, but still technically everyone. So, why not enjoy a delightfully cool scoop while you take in the sweeping views across the Corniche? There are a handful of ice cream vendors perched along the 8km beachside stretch, including some new ones at the A’l Bahar area and a refreshing dessert shouldn’t cost you any more than Dhs15. All you have to worry about is scoffing the whole thing before it melts over your hand.
Prices vary. The Corniche.
Head to a pristine, fun-filled park
Families with young kids in Abu Dhabi are quite lucky, because they have plenty of green and pleasant public spaces to enjoy.
Firstly there’s Heritage Park, next to Mina Zayed Port, which has a few barbecue pits and climbing frames, as well as winding paths cutting across fountains and pristine lawns. There’s also Khalifa Park, which boasts more than 500,000 sq m of land, a quirky train ride, a library, history museum, aquarium and cycling track. And last but not least, there are many parks along the 8km Corniche stretch, with plenty of great facilities to enjoy such as bike hire, exercise stations, farm spaces and, of course, lots of perfectly preserved green areas to relax in.
Various locations including Heritage Park, Corniche Road, near Mina Zayed Port.
Hang out in a mall
It may not be the most creative activity to go for, but the mall offers the luxury of free entry in a world where you’ll be tempted to spend, but don’t really have to. Residents of the capital are spoiled for choice with a string of great malls around, which have everything you need to kill a few hours in style. From enjoying some people-watching in a coffee shop to window shopping all those amazing items you could never afford in a million years, there’s plenty to keep you occupied. And there’s no shortage of great cheap food venues to stop for a bite to eat.
Various locations, including Yas Mall, Yas Island.
Pop into a toy store
Toy stores make some of the best play areas for kids. While available everywhere, Yas Mall alone houses more than five, Hamleys being one of them, where you can find playhouses, magicians and more to keep little ones entertained. You can also find some toys under Dhs50, including the ever-popular slime – so it’s a good way to avoid splurging while you’re out with the kids – just be wary of child tactics designed to make you spend.
Yas Mall, Yas Island, hamleys.com (02 674 2043).
Take in the beauty of Eastern Mangroves
Abu Dhabi boasts a truly stunning national park with 60 species of bird (including flamingos), mangrove forests and salt marshes – right in the middle of the city. The Eastern Mangroves makes up 75 percent of the UAE’s total mangrove forest area and it is an ecological treasure to behold. To take in their beauty for free, you can simply go for a stroll along Eastern Mangroves Promenade, which boasts 11 great food and drink outlets too.
Eastern Mangroves Promenade, Al Salam Street.
Visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
This is something that you just have to do if you’re in Abu Dhabi. A trip to this landmark, with its astonishing marble architecture, crystal chandeliers and the world’s biggest hand-knotted carpet, is an awe-inspiring experience for kids too. One of the few mosques in the region open to non-Muslims, it provides a fascinating opportunity for visitors to learn more about Islam and Emirati culture as a whole.
Free. Sat-Thu 9am-10pm, Fri 4.30pm-10pm (last entry 9.30pm). Khor Al Maqta, szgmc.ae (02 419 1919).
Watch a free movie
Well, if you’re not a fan of free outdoor movie nights, you can technically watch one for free when the other person purchases a ticket at VOX’s Du Tuesdays. To make this even better, the other ticket won’t cost you more than Dhs50 either.
From Dhs36.75 (standard). Various locations, including Yas Mall, uae.voxcinemas.com.
Three eats for less than Dhs150
Broccoli Pizza & Pasta
The “pizza and pasta” alone in its name make this restaurant a kids’ favourite. It’s no-fuss food at great prices and, yes, you can occasionally spot a broccoli in the penne for veggie points.
Various locations, including Khalidiya, broccolipizzaandpasta.com (02 666 6025).
Fussy eater tip: Well, pretty much everything on the menu is good for fussy eaters, but if you’ve got a mega one on your hands, the chocolate lovers pizza starts from Dhs16 and can be topped with all sorts of gooey cocoa goodness and fruits.
We love this venue for the healthy food and gluten-free options, but what we also love is that kids eat free every day after 5pm. The all-day breakfast plays with eggs benedict in so many different ways, and the wagyu burgers are topped with all the right ingredients. Their Weqaya menu (prevention in Arabic) lists options that are good for you, with less than 750 kcal per meal, less sugar, etc. Plus, there’s a kids’ menu with wholesome picks including porridge and veggies.
Siemens Building, Masdar City (02 491 9401).
Fussy eater tip: Picky kiddies will love the sweet potato fries, pizza of the day and honeycomb ice cream.
A popular breakfast spot, Tim Hortons is all about breakfast treats. It’s fast food with many options, and it’s been localised with ingredients such as shawarma, falafel and haloumi. Plus, the donuts, muffins and iced coffee make for good post-shopping snacks.
Al Wahda Mall (055 213 6719).
Fussy eater tip: The breakfast muffins are a healthier alternative to similar ones the kids might be craving from big fast food chains.