Best things to See and Do in Dubai (A One Day Itinerary)

Dubai’s Skyline (Photo by Amy Dahlgren)

Dubai is like a mixture of several different cities- it’s a complicated cocktail. One part Las Vegas (for the glamour and excess), one part Beijing (for the size) and one part modern Islamic metropolis. Mix that all together and serve it straight up, with a twist. The recipe is one-of-a-kind, and it’s definitely worth trying.

Dubai is a city within an emirate of the same name. For those of you who are emirate-illiterate, don’t feel bad – these things can be confusing! An emir is a high ranking title in the Muslim world, and an emirate is the region governed by an emir. Dubai is one of seven emirates that comprise The United Arab Emirates, and it’s situated on the country’s northern coastline of the Persian Gulf. While the city was built with a seemingly infinite amount of oil money (and–some say–slave labor), it counts tourism, finance and real estate as it’s biggest money-makers. In an effort to lure in tourists and entertain foreigners residing there for business, Dubai has morphed into playground for foreign travelers.

I was lucky enough to spend a few days in Dubai earlier this year when I accompanied my partner on a business trip. For many people, Dubai is just a stopover between Europe and Asia, so I’ve put together a sample itinerary for travelers who only have twenty-four hours to spend in this fascinating city. Here are my suggestions for a fun-filled day in this Middle Eastern metropolis:

Ski Dubai as viewed from midway up the black diamond run. (Photo by Amy Dahlgren)

Start your day with some exercise at Ski Dubai – an indoor snow park with the world’s only indoor black diamond ski run. Ski gear and apparel are provided in the ticket cost and there are multiple activities to choose from if skiing or snowboarding isn’t your thing. Afterwards, indulge in a little apres-ski snacking at Apres cafe for some eggs benedict and bloody mary’s. Ski Dubai is located in the Mall of the Emirates.

Next take a taxi to Burj Khalifa- the tallest building in the world. Purchase your tickets to the world’s third tallest observation deck ahead of time to save some money. Enjoy the sweeping city views on the 124th floor before heading back down to Dubai Mall at the base of the tower, and to the world’s

Burj Khalifa (Photo by Amy Dahlgren)

largest dancing fountain. Witness the spectacular water show with sprays of up to 500 feet before heading on to your next destination.

Burj Al Arab, “the world’s only seven-star hotel”, is worth a visit, although unless you are a guest you aren’t allowed inside the gate. The loophole is to make a reservation for “Sky Tea”, or high tea in the Skyview Bar located on the top floor of the sail-shaped hotel. The price isn’t cheap (roughly 100USD per person), but would you expect anything less at one of the world’s most expensive hotels? The fare is substantial and the tea is delicious. Quiz the pretty, multi-lingual female staff in the hotel lobby on the specifics of this second-tallest hotel in the world.

If you have the time or energy to cool off next door at Wild Wadi Waterpark you are in for a good time. The price is lowered two hours before the park closes if you’re just looking for a quick cool-down on the cheap.

Next, take a taxi or monorail to the infamous Atlantis Hotel at Palm Jumeirah- a man-made island in the shape of a palm tree. In the lobby

View of Atlantis from Skyview Bar at Burj Al Arab (Photo by Amy Dahlgren)

you will find a magnificent glass sculpture by the infamous glass artist Dale Chihuly. Keep going and you’ll find the 11-million liter aquarium. This aquarium trumps the one at Dubai Mall, although Dubai Mall Aquarium holds the unique world record for “world’s largest acrylic panel”. Indulge in mouthwatering sushi at Nobu Restaurant before heading back to the mainland.

Dubai Marina, an artificial canal city, is a fun place to bar hop and people watch at night. Bear in mind that alcohol is only permitted for non-Muslims in hotels. Fortunately there are plenty hotels at the marina, which gives you plenty of options to choose from, including the Observatory at Dubai Marriott Hotel and Suites, and Embassy at Grosvenor House Dubai.

Chihuly Masterpiece in lobby of Atlantis (Photo by Amy Dahlgren)

You may wonder why I excluded such predictable cultural sites as mosques or souks. I am of the opinion that a traveler should not waste her time searching for something that doesn’t exist. Dubai is a new city and strangely unique: one should visit Dubai for it’s architectural feats and recreational attractions, not for it’s religion and history. Still, with so many things to do, you are guaranteed a good time in Dubai!

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Amy Dahlgren

About Amy Dahlgren

Amy Dahlgren is a flight attendant by day and an adventurist by night. She understands the ins and outs of travel - the good, the bad and the ugly. Aside from travel and flying, Amy counts skiing, snowboarding, mountain climbing and her dog, Otis, as her most favored things.