We are teaming up with Abu Dhabi local Garvin Reid, best known for his influential instagram feed on international travel and stunning photography, curating a must-do itinerary for visiting Abu Dhabi with or without kids.
A sample of Garvin’s work is below.
When you think of the United Arab Emirates, first thoughts are usually Dubai. Just an hour south you will find Abu Dhabi, which is actually the capital of the U.A.E. and the financial hub. It is an equally grand location, with attractions ranging from Ferrari World to the Louvre.
Abu Dhabi is in constant change (and constant construction!) with new attractions and activities continuously becoming available. To brush up a bit on history before you go, check out our Abu Dhabi Travel Briefing.
To finish off our top four, we engaged Garvin and targeted our favorite attractions that blend the culture, the history, and the ecosystem.
Abu Dhabi Beaches
Spending the day soaking up the sun in your bathing suit and a dip in warm beautiful and calm water likely isn’t what you imagine when you think of a trip to Abu Dhabi. Most tourists will end up at the Corniche, which is great, but does get a bit crowded at times. When we visit, we prefer the Saadiyat Public Beach, where you will pay a small fee for access to some of the softest sand and most beautiful water. If you are seeking a bit more private and swanky day on the beach? Head over to the Saadiyat Beach Club, steeper in price but with amenities to match.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
You cannot visit Abu Dhabi without a trip to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. An evening sunset visit is ideal for photos, but a daytime trip with the little ones will be equally stunning in-person. (If you haven’t read up on Sheikh Zayed, you definitely need to before you visit!). Ensure you are wearing respectful attire, even so, they do provide covering garments for men and women.
Everyone we met in the UAE was very patient and welcoming toward small children, but the open space is not an invitation for a game of freeze tag. Please don’t be “those tourists”. After visiting the Mosque, take a walk down the corniche to burn off some energy. Once everyone has their wiggles out, head in for a nice dinner at Yas Mall.
If you have read our travel philosophy we try to avoid the tourist “traps” but this one exception and we don’t regret it. The desert safari was amazing time and our hosts made it a wonderful educational experience for the kids. The experience begins with a jeep ride through the desert called Sand Duning. The trip across the dunes was more than a little rough but my risk-averse and endlessly car sick kids LOVED it. I repeat. My kids who cry at speed bumps and toss their cookies every time we hit the 20-minute mark in the car were having the time of their lives.
Once we arrived at our desert camp site, which resembled an old fort, we were greeted with a train of camels. Camels in the Middle East are very highly respected and regarded and generally if the animals look healthy without rings through their noses, you can probably assume they are ethically treated so it’s not like riding elephants in Thailand. Once the obligatory camel ride is out of the way, guests are free to explore the campsite, which includes a BBQ pit, a falcon handler, and an area where you can try on the local attire. As the sun sets, guests are treated to a BBQ and a belly dancing show with the option of settling in under the stars to some hookah. It really is an immersive educational experience.
Friday brunches in Abu Dhabi are epic. Imagine a buffet with every type of food you can imagine. From carved lamb to sushi to entire displays of candy and ice cream with multiple flavors of chocolate fountain. Your meal ticket gets you access to all of this along with drinks delivered to you at the pool, and you are free to hang out and graze for hours. The Al Raha Beach Hotel & Resort and Shangri-La Hotel Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi are both highly recommended! I hope you will check it out and report back on your experience.
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For detailed itineraries about specific attractions in Abu Dhabi, check out these great reviews by our friends at Travel Addicted Unicorn: