FamilyA family festive season in Dubai

During the festive season, Dubai transforms into a winter wonderland full of family-friendly fun

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As the festive season approaches, Dubai’s sleek squares and modern malls are transformed into a magical landscape, festooned with twinkling lights and tall trees. Combine this with a packed programme of pop-ups, events and activities, along with a good dose of winter sun, and there are few places that can compete. From meeting penguins to ice skating, here are some of the best ways to bring seasonal cheer to your family holiday in Dubai.


Meet the penguins

Unsurprisingly, Dubai is devoid of reindeer—but luckily, there are other charming creatures of the North Pole to discover. Children will love Ski Dubai’s Penguin Zone, where, wrapped up warmly, they can meet two species of penguin (gentoo and king) in a supervised face-to-face encounter. As well as learning about their natural habitats and behaviours, they’ll see the waddling birds transform into graceful divers as they frolic underwater.

Penguins in Dubai


Work up a sweat with Santa

Children needn’t worry, because Santa Claus is most definitely coming to town — to Dubai Creek, in fact, for the Dubai Festival City Santa Fun Run. Every year, hundreds pull on their holiday best and run through town dressed as the giver of presents, comical in bright red suits and long white beards. Take up a prime position and cheer them on as they jog past, or if you’re so inclined, dress up and join them. There are short routes available for children, and all participants enjoy access to Santa’s Grotto, free goodies and the chance to be crowned best-dressed Santa.


Go ice skating in the desert

Nothing says festive spirit like gliding around on the ice to the sound of twinkling seasonal songs, and in Dubai it’s possible, even surrounded by sand and sea. Head to Dubai Mall to find the Dubai Ice Rink, an impressive Olympic-sized rink suitable for all ages, and hop on the ice hand-in-hand. If you’re still holding onto the sides for dear life, don’t worry — instructors are available to help you perfect your technique.

Ice skating in Dubai


Sample seasonal Bavarian treats

Indulge in Bavarian-style goodies, captivating crafts and snowy games amidst happy crowds at Madinat Jumeirah’s annual German-style festive market. Wander past traditional cabins browsing tasty gingerbread treats and sparkling souvenirs, admire the vast tree dripping with baubles and if little feet tire, take a ride on the North Pole train. Activities include making and decorating cookies and gingerbread houses, but the highlight is definitely the snow zone, where children (and adults) can join in with a gigantic snowball fight. Set by the palm-lined water, it’s at this market that European traditions and Emirate landscapes come together for unique, atmospheric effect.

Madinat Jumeirah Bavarian festive market