Couples + Family

5 Things Your Kids (Really) Want to Do in Abu Dhabi

Feed the kids’ need for speed on the Junior GT at Ferrari World. (Photo: Courtesy of Ferrari World)

We know what you’re thinking: A trip for the kids to the United Arab Emirates is impressive enough — a parental touchdown, really. But while you’ll endlessly groove on Abu Dhabi’s alluring souks, exotic architecture and Middle Eastern cuisine, what happens when the kids have seen their fill of camels and are threatening a hunger strike on hummus? Well, never fear — here are five over-the-top attractions that will have your youngsters’ crowing, “Abu-Dhabi-dooo!”

Ride the World’s Fastest Roller Coaster

Your family will bond very quickly as you zoom to 149 mph in 4.9 seconds on Formula Rossa, the world’s fastest roller coaster. It’s just one of the high-octane rides at the indoor theme park Ferrari World Abu Dhabi. The Junior Grand Prix gives kids instruction from trained experts before they climb behind the wheel to drive scaled-down Ferrari F1 racecars. Not keen on cars? Head to the Junior Training Camp, where aspiring climbers and Spider-Man fans alike can scale walls and even a skyscraper structure.

Don’t leave withoutvisiting the Galleria Ferrari for the slick selection of Ferrari models on loan from both collectors and the automaker’s headquarters in Maranello, Italy. Memorabilia and interactive touch screens take you through the evolution of Ferrari — the company and the cars.

UAE family yas waterworld abu dhabi
Serpent themed slides at Yas Waterworld in Abu Dhabi. (Photo: Stuart Forster / Alamy Stock Photo)

Ride the Eye of the Storm

The rides at Yas Waterworld, which spans more than 15 football fields, will spike the adrenaline of even the most jaded water park veterans. Imagine being whisked around in the center of a tornado — that’s the sensation of the Dawwama, the world’s first and largest hydromagnetic-powered tornado water slide. On the Liwa Loop, the floor gives way, sending you down a looping water slide. On the low-key end, there’s a Tot’s Playground with a pool and water slides tailored for peewees.

Don’t leave withoutriding the Bandit Bomber. This 1,800-foot roller coaster features onboard water and laser effects. You can shoot jets of water and drop water bombs at those walking below you, and you can also trigger special effects.

UAE family arabian wildlife park abu dhabi
Herd of Arabian Oryx (Oryx Leucoryx), Sir Bani Yas Island, United Arab Emirates. (Photo: Photoshot License Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo)

Go Eye-to-Eye With Wild Animals

About 105 miles west of the city lies Sir Bani Yas Island, where 13,000 free-roaming animals make their home in the Arabian Wildlife Park. You can stare down rock hyraxes, ostriches, striped hyenas and cheetahs, and even greet giraffes at eye-level thanks to a specially designed platform. Or see the animals up close on a guided drive or nature walk. What’s next? Horseback riding, falconry and mountain biking are good bets.

Don’t leave without…climbing into an open-air 4×4 for a guided drive across the island to see the free-roaming giraffes, cheetahs, flamingos and more.

UAE family sheikh zayed grand mosque abu-dhabi
Photographing the Sheikh Zayed Mosque. (Photo: Richard Taylor / SIME /eStock)

Step Into Another World

Abu Dhabi’s most beloved icon, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, reigns as one of the world’s largest mosques — and it wows with 82 marble domes, more than 1,000 columns, and chandeliers gilded with 24-karat gold. It’s eye candy, to be sure, and it’s also a captivating way to expose kids to the traditions of one of the world’s leading religions.

Don’t leave without…taking the 45-minute tour. The guides are refreshingly open and candid, so if Johnny asks why Muslims rest their heads on the floor when praying, no worries — they’re happy to answer. Try to take the 5 p.m. sunset tour, when the changing colors of natural light amplify the visual splendor.

UAE family yas marina circuit abu dhabi
The FI Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo: Hilary Morgan / Alamy Stock Photo)

Summon Your Inner Formula 1 Driver

The Yas Marina Circuit hosts professional motorsport races year-round — and if you’ve ever wanted to drive, say, an Aston Martin GT4 or ride a Chevrolet Camaro with a pro drag racer behind the wheel, this is the place to do it. But what’s in it for kids? At Yas KartZone, the 8-to-12 set can fulfill their need for speed by go-karting on an 800-meter track, reaching speeds of nearly 40 mph. For young drivers looking to shave seconds off their times, a lap-tracking system charts their performance.

Don’t leave without…taking the venue tour for an insider’s view of one of the world’s most advanced Formula 1 circuits. You’ll be driven, of course. Highlights include a look at the high-tech race control area, the air-conditioned pit garages, the state-of-the-art media center and the north grandstand.