Summer has arrived in the GCC, and as a result, residents and visitors largely retreat from the scorching beaches and sun-dappled al fresco restaurants to enjoy the UAE‘s shaded spots and myriad indoor adventures. But while the UAE is known for its outdoor pursuits, the country also offers some fantastic indoor activities, which don’t just involve spending hours on end in the country’s vast shopping malls. From year-round ski slopes and snow cinemas to fascinating museums and tranquil air-conditioned spas, here are the best indoor activities to do in Dubai and the UAE this summer.
1. Relax with a spa day
There are few better ways to truly relax, and cool down, than a soothing spa day, and, thanks to a wellness-loving population and bounty of brilliant five-star hotels, the Emirates are the place to be to enjoy one. Lots of the country’s top hotels and day spas are offering summer spa packages this season, luring residents and tourists with attractive offers. Spas with regular offers include the serene Nikki Beach Resort & Spa – with its all-white coconut-scented wellness space – Five Palm Jumeirah, home to one of the most glossy and beautiful spas in Dubai and SLS panoramic Ciel Spa, with sky terraces and views over the city. Read our guide to the best spa day deals in Dubai this summer.
2. Take in a museum
Ten years in the making, the highly-anticipated Louvre Abu Dhabi opened its doors in 2017 as the world’s second Louvre, bequeathed the name by the original Parisian institution and described as ‘France’s largest cultural project abroad’. Its striking dome-shaped design is the product of world-renowned architect Jean Nouvel’s unique vision and was inspired by the region’s rich architectural traditions. Inside, the Louvre Abu Dhabi cements itself as a world-class museum with 120 masterpieces, taking guests on a journey into thousands of years of human creativity across cultures and continents and displaying pieces by Michelangelo, Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci. While the artwork takes centre stage, the building is a work of art in itself, set on the water with a detailed domed ceiling and striking white walls. During the summer, the museum stays open until midnight so visitors can experience its stunning outdoor waterside spaces, and there’s a rotating calendar of exhibitions, cultural events and specialised talks. Tickets are AED 60 for adults and AED 30 for children. louvreabudhabi.ae
3. See a film in the snow
A collaboration between Ski Dubai and Vox Cinemas, Snow Cinema is one of the best indoor activities in Dubai and the UAE for families, allowing guests to enjoy the magic of movies surrounded by real snowy slopes (complete with skiers and snowboarders). There are several screenings a day throughout the summer months, and this season’s line-up includes Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3, Fast X and The Super Mario Bros. Tickets include cosy winter jackets, fleece gloves, socks, boots and a blanket, alongside hot chocolate and popcorn, wireless headphones and locker to store your stuff away. Tickets are priced from AED200 for two, and AED400 for VIP tickets. skidxb.com
4. Shop local at a market
Away from the shiny mega-malls it’s known for, the UAE is full of local markets selling artisan produce and culinary delights alongside handmade jewellery, fashion, arts and crafts. One of the city’s most famous is the beloved Ripe Market, which moves indoors during summer. This year, there are two destinations across Dubai to choose from – the new location of Festival Plaza, Jebal Ali and Times Square Center. Festival Plaza market runs from 10 am to 9 pm on Saturdays, while Times Square Center is open on Sundays from 10 am to 7 pm. Both come alive with food trucks, balloon artists, homegrown businesses and live entertainment. Also at Times Square Center (along with Craft Land at Town Center Shopping Mall and Mercato Mall on Jumeirah Beach Road, Saturdays from 10 am to 10 pm) is Arte The Maker’s Market, a smaller affair with charming homeware, art, jewellery, candles, skincare, home decor, clothing and plenty more. ripeevents.com; @arteuae
5. Enjoy a concert or performance
Dubai’s 2,000-seater Dubai Opera is a work of art, beautifully designed and right on the Burj Khalifa Lake. There’s an extraordinary programme of events this summer, making a visit to the theatre one of the most exciting indoor activities to do in Dubai and the UAE. Shows include Sleeping Beauty by the Moscow Ballet, singer-songwriter Tom Odell in concert, Rob Beckett and Josh Widdecombe’s Parenting Hell podcast live and the spectacular multi-award-winning musical Matilda from the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC). The nearby Coco-Cola Arena at City Walk also has an enticing calendar this summer, with performances including the World Padel League (complete with music from artists like Nicky Romero), Arabeats and Trevor Noah. dubaiopera.com, coca-cola-arena.com
6. Learn, or perfect, a winter sport
It’s almost hard to comprehend that winter sports are part of the UAE’s scorching summer – where temperatures can regularly hit above 50 Celcius – but the country is home to a handful of spots to enjoy winter pursuits. The multi-award-winning world’s indoor ski slope Ski Dubai is the best place to head, where visitors can enjoy ski and snowboarding lessons or enjoy time on the slopes. While Ski Dubai slopes are covered with real powder-white snow, Infinite Ski’s are dry – with the slope being the UAE’s first dry ski slope. With two Maxxtracks – designed to progress your ski and snowboarding skills – it’s the perfect place to learn (minus the freezing cold). Both skiing and snowboarding lessons are on offer on the revolving simulator belt in Al Quoz. skidxb.com; infiniteski.com
7. Or enjoy a summer sport, without the sun
It’s not just winter sports that can be enjoyed indoors in Dubai, but also sports traditionally played outdoors, and racquet sports are one of the best indoor activities in Dubai and the UAE. Popular with residents, locals and tourists alike, tennis and padel tennis are both available to be played indoors at a plethora of courts around the city. Tennis 360’s indoor courts at DIFC’s Dubai Sports World offer some of the best prices for indoor tennis at AED200 per hour, alongside tennis lessons and amateur tournaments. Padel Point – Dubai’s first indoor padel court – also offers court rental (from AED280), lessons and tournaments, located in the up-and-coming Al Quoz neighbourhood. Abu Dhabi also has its share of indoor tennis and padel courts, and keen players should head to Let’s Padel Academy (with four locations in the city and prices from AED300 for four) or 321 Sports (court rental from AED170 per hour).
8. Experience the thrills of an indoor theme park
Both Dubai and Abu Dhabi are home to many theme parks, but the city’s spaces are the place to be during the summer months. On Yas Island, Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi invites thrill-seekers to experience an immersive world of all their favourite Warner Bros characters, with 29 exhilarating rides, interactive family-friendly attractions and unique live entertainment. In Dubai, IMG World of Adventures – the world’s largest indoor theme park – is filled with themed rides for families, little ones and adrenaline seekers, spread across four zones: Marvel, Lost Valley, Cartoon Network and IMG Boulevard. wbworldabudhabi.com; imgworlds.com
9. Dabble in gaming
Dubai’s plentiful range of indoor activities has something to suit every taste, from solo sports to team building. Head to the city’s bowling alley and arcade bars, such as Wavehouse or Brass Monkey, or visit to the JBR beachfront for escape rooms for team games at Tepfactor or glow-in-the-dark mini golf at 3D Blacklight Mini Golf.