Visiting Abu Dhabi with kids: theme parks, speed boats and farms

Against a backdrop of golden sand and turquoise-lined islands, Abu Dhabi is packed to the dunes with kid-friendly adventures. And thanks to the traditional warm Arabian hospitality afforded to all visitors in this part of the world, families headed to the UAE capital can expect a warm welcome.

In fact, Abu Dhabi is an incredibly child-friendly destination where most hotels boast facilities just for little ones, with kids clubs, splash pools and kid-specific menus more common than not. As well as tons of child-specific attractions, Abu Dhabi has plenty for families to discover together. The city is also extremely safe, meaning parents can enjoy peace of mind while exploring with little ones in tow.

Is Abu Dhabi good for kids?

Abu Dhabi makes traveling with kids easy with family check-in desks at Abu Dhabi airport, baby changing facilities in most bathrooms and handy breastfeeding rooms in the city’s malls for nursing moms. Children are also welcome in most restaurants and bars, although check if there are evening restrictions if the venue serves alcohol. In fact, the only real challenge families will face in Abu Dhabi is the heat. How to beat it? Don’t come in summertime – and plan outdoor activities first thing in the morning or in early evening.

Where is best in Abu Dhabi for children?

Families trying to decide where to stay can consider Yas Island on the outskirts of the city, which is filled with theme parks galore. The waterfront Corniche is another good spot with a seemingly endless golden shoreline and plenty of nearby malls, restaurants and hotels. 

A young boy climbing the fence at Al Zeina residential complex, Abu Dhabi, overlooking the channel that separates Yas Island.
Keep your toddler entertained with these child-friendly distractions in Abu Dhabi © deveritt / Getty Images

The best things to do in Abu Dhabi with babies and toddlers

Go vegetable picking at Mazara Farm

It may be the desert, but that doesn’t mean things don’t grow in Abu Dhabi, and a visit to Mazaraa Farm proves exactly that. The UAE’s first certified organic farm is perfect for little ones to try vegetable picking and to meet goats, donkeys, rabbits, horses and camels. Afterwards, enjoy refreshments in the farm’s boho-style cafe.

Spend the morning at Umm Al Emarat Park

One of the oldest green spaces in the city, Umm Al Emarat Park has a blooming botanical garden, water fountains and a music garden – where children can bang around on glockenspiels and bongos. On warmer days, make a beeline to the three-floored Shade House, which boasts brilliant views of the park and beyond. There are plenty of cafes and food trucks inside the park for when little ones get peckish.

Soak in culture at Manarat Al Saadiyat

Museums and galleries may not be traditionally baby-friendly, but there’s no reason to miss out on culture because you have kids in tow. Manarat Al Saadiyat hosts a revolving calendar of painting, photography and cinema exhibitions, and has a permanent outdoor space with a street-art-adorned skate park. The adjacent garden boasts six colorful public artworks and is a great place for kids to burn off some steam. Larte – a contemporary Italian eatery – is also located here, and has a bambino menu for kids and happy hour every weekday for the adults. 

Decorative arches at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, with a small group of visitors in the foreground
It’s best to prepare kids on the etiquette for visiting religious sites like Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque © Walter Bibikow / Getty Images

Best things to do in Abu Dhabi with kids

Visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Sparkling crystal chandeliers, mirror-like pools and the world’s largest hand-knotted carpet await in the 22,400-sq-meter (241,111-sq-ft) Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi’s most famous landmark. Free to visit, it’s a great learning opportunity for the whole family and complimentary tours will answer anything you ever wanted to know about the Islamic faith and Emirati culture. Unsurprisingly for the UAE, you reach and depart the mosque via a shopping mall which means there’s plenty of coffee shops around to rehydrate after your visit – no food or water is allowed inside the mosque.

Speed through the mangroves on a Rhino boat

Home to thousands of mangrove trees and over 60 bird species, the Mangrove National Park is Abu Dhabi’s most impressive natural asset. Head out on the water on specially modified speed boats known as Rhino Riders and keep your eyes peeled for flamingoes, herons and turtles. A stop at a private sandy island and a dip in the water wrap up this fun experience that’s open to everyone aged three and older.

Get to grips with art at Louvre Abu Dhabi

France’s largest overseas cultural project can be found at Louvre Abu Dhabi. Fantastical architecture and a light-filled central dome house an impressive permanent collection. It’s also where travelers can find the Children’s Museum, the capital’s only child-specific museum. Here, little visitors get the chance to experience art through immersive workshops and activities. Aptitude Café is a good pick for refreshments afterwards, where the sunset views almost make up for the steep prices.

Visitors are zooming down a water slide on their stomachs at Yas Waterworld aquapark in Abu Dhabi
Yas Island’s family-friendly theme parks are a hit with teens and parents alike © Vladimir Zhoga / Shutterstock

Best things to do in Abu Dhabi with teenagers and tweenagers

Explore Yas Island’s theme parks

Yas Island is theme park central and a funnel of fun for kids of all ages. Ride the world’s fastest roller coaster at Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, or cool down at Yas Waterworld, where there are rides, slides and rapids galore. Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi, the world’s largest indoor theme park, is also here and has captivating themed “worlds” including Bedrock for littles, Cartoon Network for kids and Gotham City for teens.

Visit Abu Dhabi Falcon hospital

Specializing in the care of the UAE’s national bird, Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital welcomes visitors (aged five and over) wanting to find out more about these storied creatures. A two-hour tour explains the significance of falcons in traditional Bedouin culture and kids can watch the birds getting their talons trimmed and flying through an open aviary. If you’re lucky, you might even get to watch a bird surgery take place. 

Get adventurous at Hudayriyat Island

Connected to Abu Dhabi via a huge suspension bridge, Hudayriyat Island is the place for outdoor adventures. With cycling and jogging tracks, sports courts, golden beaches and endless crystal-clear waters, teens can also show off their skills in the skate park, head out on the ocean via a Jet Ski, whizz across a mountain bike trail or tackle the largest permanent obstacle course in the UAE. Younger siblings will love the pirate-themed Splash & Climb park and there’s a host of cafes here, making it easy to find a place to dine for even the fussiest eaters. 

Planning tips for traveling with children in Abu Dhabi

Have a chat with your kids to educate them about the UAE’s Muslim culture, especially if you plan to visit the Grand Mosque. Children are welcome here but it’s not appropriate for them to run around and make loud noises. This might not seem ideal but learning about the expectations of other cultures is a critical part of travel.

The Entertainer discount app might be worth purchasing if you plan to do lots of sightseeing as it’s filled with two-for-one offers to the city’s attractions, restaurants and leisure offerings.

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