The definitive offbeat list of things-to-do in Dubai!

For someone (with lesser exploratory mindset) visiting Dubai, it’s all about going on top of the Burj Khalifa, dune-bashing at a Desert Safari, or dining on a Dhow Cruise or taking selfies in front of the Atlantis or Burj Al Arab. But let me tell you, while the above mentioned things are definitely fun activities, there’s a lot more to Dubai than just all of these. In my past 3 years in this city, I’ve had umpteen exhilarating experiences some of which I would like to mention in the list (substantiated by pictures – mostly clicked by me unless mentioned otherwise!) given below:

1. Burger Joints

There are so many places where you can catch one of them yummy gourmet burgers (the patty being freshly prepared, along with the sides) in Dubai such as Meat Me There, Big Smoke Burger, Five Guys, Mooyah, Moylo’s, Salt, Caliburger, Classic Burger Joint, Shake Shack and so on. Prices would vary between AED 35 – 50.

 

2. Embracing the “Cafe Culture”

Dubai has some of the most vibrant and wonderfully designed cafes serving good-quality coffee, shakes and short-eats. Few worth mentioning would be Spill The Bean Cafe at Sunset Mall, Coffee Club, Dome Cafe, Markette, The One Cafe, Bookmunch and Espresso Lab. Some of these are full-fledged restaurants under the garb of coffee places. The One Cafe especially offers an amazing homely ‘backyard’ vibe (see pic) while you get the best ever sugar-free coffee at Espresso Lab, located at the 100 Wellness Center.

 

3. Infusing Art with Coffee

Bastakia area in Bur Dubai is known for its rustic looking buildings that have been converted into quirky-looking cafes with beautiful interiors. Make Art Cafe, XVA Gallery and the Coffee Museum are must-visits for any art+coffee lover.

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4. Trying out some exquisite dessert

Dubai being a foodie’s paradise is also well-known for its variety of options for dessert. From S’mores Hot Chocolate at Mo’s to Frozen Hot Chocolate at Serendipity 3 to yummylicious ice-cream combos at the Ice Cream Lab or Haagen Dazs to the Lotus Cake at Parker’s, Dubai is the place-to-be for checking out some exquisitely prepared and also great-looking+tasting dessert. Price may vary according to item ordered. Roughly falling between AED 20-50.

 

5. Places with a view to die for

The top of the Burj Khalifa definitely offers a magnificent view of Dubai, but it ain’t the only place. The Observatory at Marriott Harbour Hotel & Suites, Jumeirah Fishing Harbour at Umm Suqeim, 360 Degree Bar & Lounge at Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Vivaldi by Alfredo Russo at Sheraton Creek, 40 Kong at H Dubai, Level 43 @Four Points SZR and Kite Beach also have seating decks with scintillating views accompanied by ample food and beverage options.

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6. Attend Street Nights at JBR

Street Nights is a community-based celebration of street-culture, taking place out in the open (on actual streets). This event successfully blends street art / graffiti, food, live music and B-boying. It is one of the best and convenient methods to have fun without going to a mall. Total fun n’ frolic guaranteed!

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7. Watch a movie outdoors 

There are various spots in Dubai where one can watch movies out in the open, while seated comfortably on bean bags and munching on popcorn. The Dubai International Film Festival which takes place annually, also provides avenues for the same. Locations include JLT (JLT Park), JBR (The Beach), Safa Park (The Archive) and Wafi Mall (Pyramids @Wafi). The entry for these screenings are mostly free-of-cost unless announced otherwise.

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8. Go for a late Friday Brunch / Buffet

Fridays in Dubai are equivalent to Saturdays for the rest of the world, when usually the average Dubai resident sleeps all through the morning and wakes up extremely hungry around 11 AM or 12 noon after pulling an all-nighter on Thursday post-work. So a brunch or drunch turns out to be the likely option. Many restos in Dubai provide brunch options (including or not including alcoholic beverages). The price per person varies based on the location of the hotel, cuisines offered, and inclusion of drinks. Some of the buffets having great n’ gi-normous spreads I have personally been to are the ones at Tamarind (Ramada Bur Dubai), Bayside Restaurant and Terrace (Steigenberger Hotel Business Bay) and Kitchen 6 (JW Marriott Marquis).

 

9. Attend Middle East Film & Comic-Con

MEFCC is definitely one of the most fun events of the year, taking place usually in the first or second week of April. The innovative and brilliantly designed cos-plays and gaming events are a notch above any other event happening in the entire region. This event is attended by comic-book and filmi greats from around the world. The list of previous attendees includes Taylor Kitsch, Kelly Hu, Randy Orton, Nick Frost, Tony Jaa, Michael Jai White and the iconic Stan Lee himself.

 

10. Attend one of the many Food Festivals happening round the year

Dubai Food Festival, Taste of Dubai and Gulfood are just a notable few among the numerous food festivals taking place in and around Dubai all throughout the year. The major attractions of DFF are the Beach Canteen @Kite Beach and Eat The World Dxb (comprising of food trucks from all over the world such as Hix Fish Dog, Bang Wok, Churros Bros, Brugo, Yumtingz and Other Side Fried all parked at a single location, preparing fresh delicious treats). Food Truck Jam is yet another brilliantly managed event.

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11. Visit ‘Ripe Food & Craft Market’

The one-stop-shop for fresh chemical-free fruits and veggies, home-made chocolates, gluten free ice cream, raw honey, tender coconut and so on. It takes place at different locations all through winter and summer such as Time Square, Zabeel Park and Al Barsha Pond Park. The event also provides a platform for shopping tidbits, artwork, leather goods, and handmade gifts. Happens on either Fridays or Saturdays.

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12. Dine n’ drink with cats at Ailuromania Cafe 

Yes, a cat cafe, having some really gorgeous and friendly kitties. Pet them, cuddle them, play with them click pictures with them all for a minimum redeemable cover charge of AED 50/- per person. Their Persian cats are so beautiful. It is quite literally a cat-lover’s paradise.

 

13. Have a shawarma in some form or the other

Dubai is otherwise known as the shawarma hub of the world. You have infinite number of shawarma joints here that offer these delectable sandwiches in various forms be it normal, spicy, on a plate, Arabian / Mexican / Turkish / Greek (Gyros) and so on. Being in Dubai, you’ll never run out of restaurants that cook up shawarmas. Some of the above-par shawarma joints are My Shawarma (Barsha), Van Sandwiches (Jumeirah 1), Extreme Shawarma (Al Rigga), Zaroob (Trade Centre), Beriani Esfahan (Baniyas), Jabal Al Noor (Various locations) and Operation Falafel (JBR).

 

14. Happy hours

Anybody would want to unwind after a hectic week’s work or sometimes even mid-week. Some of Dubai’s bars have really good happy-hour offers, such as Hard-rock Cafe, Stables, Rodeo Drive, Lucien Belgian Cafe, Carter’s @Wafi, Fibber Magee’s, McGettigan’s, Trader Vic’s and Barasti Beach Bar. The ambiance varies from place to place and mostly have amazing crowds of mixed ethnicity and great music and vibes. I just wish they had more places like ‘Social’ here.

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15. Attend Market OTB or visit Box-Park / Witness the Shopping Festival fireworks

Who wouldn’t like to shop out of huge trippy colored cargo-boxes? It is amazing to see all those boxes randomly stacked up against each other at Market OTB or Out-of-The-Box (which is part of the esteemed Dubai Shopping Festival) or the recently built Box-Park at Al Wasl Road. Restaurants, shops, cafes, mini-theater, you name it, they’ve got it all covered. The fireworks during the shopping festival season is another treat to watch out for. It usually takes place at Festival City, JBR and Global Village.

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16. Go for a ferry ride

The rides start off from two locations 7 days a week: Al Ghubaiba and Dubai Marina. The Al Ghubaiba terminal is close to the Abra station. The Marina terminal is a short walk from Marina Mall. This can be both fun and relaxing at the same time. Also, you get to click nice pictures of some of Dubai’s greatest historical landmarks and skyline. Enjoy the cool breeze on a winter evening.

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17. Scribble on the walls of Burger Joint NY, City Walk

See the below pictures and you know what you gotta do. The interiors of this place definitely pack a punch. The burgers are on the high-end so, the choice of going is up to you. But the ambiance and service are certainly positive factors. Write anything from your name to a message to a quote to your phone number (creepy! :p) to your Instagram or Facebook or Zomato account user ID.

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18. Visit City Walk during City Overdrive event

Witness some of Dubai’s best custom-built vehicles at this event. The City Walk by itself is a very hip-looking mall and this event only adds to its glamour quotient. The vehicles spotted include Corvette Stingray, Ford Tudor, Camaro Guyver, Pontiac Fire Bird, Morgan 3 Wheeler, Nissan Skyline GTR, Mustang GT, Hummer H1, Landrover Defender and arrays of Mini-Coopers.

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19. Attend Sikka Art Fair

Sikka Art Fair is for art enthusiasts of all ages, whether your draw or sculpt or build or simply appreciate any form of art. It is part of the Dubai Art Season generally taking place in the cool winter months. Recently, this event has also incorporated creative works in visual and performing arts, music and film by GCC-based artists and collectives.

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20. Attend Dubai Jazz Festival (or any live-concert)

Dubai Jazz Festival boasts of headliners by David Gray, Toto, Carlos Santana, Sting, John Legend, James Blunt, and Christina Perri previously. It has been a major attraction for music lovers all across the UAE and the region and has entertained a cumulative attendance of over 400,000 for over a decade or so. Mostly takes place in the month of February. Make sure to buy tickets well in advance to avail early-bird rates. Lately, the event has been held at the Media City Amphitheater which is a wonderfully managed venue with high production values, great sound quality and high-profile attendees.

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21. Sample the Freak Shake at The Black Lion, H Dubai / Fume Downtown or Pier 7 / La Pulpe, Oud Metha / Boombalambuz Cafe, Jumeirah 3

A freak shake is basically a thick creamy milkshake with a dessert topping. Located on Sheikh Zayed Road, near the Lobby Area of H Dubai, The Black Lion is a chic British pub. Ranging from AED 45 to 75, the Freak Shake comes in different flavours such as Strawberry Jam Donut, Pecan Pie, Raspberry Eton Mess, Nutella Cookie, Banoffee and Pistachio Blondie. Fume Downtown’s got their variety in the form of Berry Freaky, Bro Nut, Funky Cheescake and Popping Cereal. For the more economical options, try the ones at La Pulpe or Boombalambuz Cafe. MIND=BLOWN!!

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22. Sponsor a dog at K9 Friends

It’s a sweet gesture towards our furry friends especially for animal-lovers who cannot afford to bring a dog home. You can sponsor a dog for a year by paying just AED 350. By doing that, you receive a certificate (with picture) of the dog you sponsor, the complete profile of the dog, invitations to K9 events, and ample opportunities to visit your dog and the kennels. Let us all do a little something to make their world a better place!

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Pic: Outsourced

23. Go cycling at one of the many cycling tracks in Dubai

Take the healthy route and try doing it as often as you can during the cool winter months. Choose locations such as Nad Al Sheba cycle path, Al Qudra cycle path, Dubai Autodrome, Al Barsha Park, Mushrif Park or Jumeirah Open Beach Track for vehicle-free and enjoyable rides.

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Pic: Outsourced

24. Visit the Wild-life sanctuary at Ras Al Khor

Yes, you heard me! There’s a bit of comforting natural beauty (for those who care!) right in the heart of the city. This place apparently attracts a large variety of migratory birds. Do visit to treat your eyes to some majestic-looking Greater Flamingoes.

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Pic: Outsourced

25. Try free-style jumping at Bounce Middle East

A great cardio workout combined with endless fun is what Bounce is all about. A General Session costs (which lasts one hour) AED 80/- per person. Located at Building #32, 4B Street, Al Quoz industrial Area 1 – Dubai. Check their website (bounce.ae) to know what this sensation is all about.

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Pic: Outsourced

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