In lieu of battling the crowds to watch the NYE fireworks in Dubai, we decided to spend the last night of 2019 in the Arabian desert. Our guide picked us up at the hotel and brought to the starting point where we transferred to a vintage Land Rover for a ride through the dunes of the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. It was great – we drove with the light wind blowing above, spotted Arabian oryx and gazelles who come to graze in the reserve, stopped to take pictures of the sunset setting over the dunes, and finally arrived to watch the falcon show.

For the evening festivities, we came to a Bedouin camp, set up with shisha, henna tattoo artists, and camel rides. As we were settling in, the traditional dinner was being prepared. Throughout the night, we were entertained by the drummers, fire dancer, and went star gazing with an astronomer. It was a memorable night, and one of our favorite experiences in Dubai.

La Mer

La Mer is Dubai beachfront and a cool place to spend a day shopping, eating and relaxing by the beach. There are water sports for rent if you desire something more active, showers if you’d like to hit one of the many restaurants after soaking some sun on the beach, park for the kids to run around free, all along with eateries, ice cream shops and a laid back vibe.

We spent the first day of the new decade at La Mer. Children were happy with their lunch at Five Guys burger place, and we enjoyed the beach, looking at the Arabian Gulf and admiring the Dubai skyline. Another great day on vacation.

Atlantis

This was one of the selling points when I suggested we come vacation in Dubai. Atlantis the Palm is located on the Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah Island, a 5-star luxury property with its own private beach and the views of the Arabian Gulf. It’s beautiful, luxurious and is definitely one of Dubai’s iconic features. We didn’t stay at the property but spent a day at Atlantis Aquaventure Waterpark. If you forget your towels, you may rent them there and a locker to store your stuff. The great thing about the park is that it offers plenty to do for all ages – young and old. We had a lot of fun floating down the lazy river. The rapids along the way are fun, and the staff is friendly along the way to make sure everyone is safe. The rides are thrilling, and the entire experience was definitely a hit with the kids. The food is on the expensive side, but it is to be expected. We ended the day by visiting the Lost Chambers Aquarium, which I actually liked better than the Dubai Aquarium. One thing to keep in mind is that while the hotel and the park are truly a not to be missed while visiting Dubai, it is a bit out of the way from the rest of the attractions. It would be a great place to stay for a night or two to enjoy the park and the beach.

Dubai Mall, Dune Buggy Rides

I knew I couldn’t leave Dubai without spending some time shopping at the Dubai Mall with its 1,200 stores. It is a full day activity – an ice rink, an Aquarium, a movie theater, a gold souk, not to mention every possible store and many restaurants. I know it’s not for everybody, but luckily my daughters kept me company and while we took on Dubai Mall, the boys went back to the desert for some dune bashing and sand boarding. I don’t know who had more fun!

Al Ain, Wadi Adventure

And just like that, the vacation came to an end. For our last day, I really wanted to take a day trip to another Emirate, and after much deliberation, we decided on Al Ain and Wadi Adventure Park. The reason we chose Al Ain is because it’s an older, more traditional town about 2 hours from Dubai. I also wanted to visit one of the few remaining Camel Markets, and knew that the rest of the family would enjoy taking a few dips in another water park. We were the only Western tourists at the Camel market, but learned that there is a variety of camels being traded, anything from racing to the ones used for meat. There are also other animals and cattle being sold, so it was definitely a time-worthy stop. We did not visit any other attractions in Al Ain. As usual, we were running out of time, and with two-hour way back and wanting to spend some time at Wadi Adventure, we had to go. For lunch, we stumbled by chance on Bait Al Najoom restaurant – offering authentic Arabic and Pakistani food. Most of the items on the menu weren’t available because the chef wasn’t there (!), but what we could order (soup, chicken and rice, and hummus) was delicious, cheap and plentiful. Full and satisfied, we made our way to Wadi Adventure.

It was a cooler day by Emirati standards (mid-70s), so there was hardly anybody at the park which meant we had the entire place practically to ourselves. It has a lot to offer from white water rafting with three levels of rapids, kayaking, tubing, surfing (all in a controlled environment) to zip lining and a family pool.

We celebrated our last night at Jumeirah Beach Residence’s Bosporus Turkish Restaurant with more of delicious food that we will all miss back home.