Free (and really cheap!) ways to enjoy Abu Dhabi outdoors with kids
Along with the excitement of the new year and cooler days in the UAE, there’s also that knowledge as January ticks around that there are only a few months left to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors!
So what are you waiting for?
In this post we guide you through some of our favourite free or really cheap outdoor spaces for the kids near to Abu Dhabi city – but I bet there are plenty more! Leave them in the comments below.
- Umm Al Emarat Park
- Masdar Park
- Yas Gateway Parks
- New Airport Garden
- Al Bahia Park
- The Corniche
- Al Bateen Beach
- Yas Marina Circuit and Promenade
- Small hidden play spots off island
- The Desert
This is part of our series Discover the UAE – a tourist and residents guide to enjoying Abu Dhabi with your kids.
Don’t forget to check out our guide to the Best of Indoors Abu Dhabi, the Ultimate UAE beach and Desert Camping Guide and our bumper listing 100+ things to do in the UAE with Kids
Umm al Emarat Park (formerly Mushrif Park)
Where: In the centre of Abu Dhabi Island. Between 15th and 17th Streets. Entry is from 8th street which runs parallel to Al Kharamah Street (24th).
What to expect: There is so much going on here for families!
- There are two large playground areas over sand, plus a wadi and splash play area.
- Next to this is a kids petting zoo.
- There are also botanical gardens and many pathways to explore through the park.
- There’s a mini train that runs through the park.
- Outdoor cinema screen.
- Several eateries on site, some overlooking play areas.
- On a weekend you will find the Ripe Market going on during the winter months (Saturdays 4pm-11pm) and a multitude of revolving events in the amphitheatre and on the grounds.
- A new addition is the seasonal Wonder Maze – a moveable maze with different challenges to take (Oct to April).
The only downside to coming here can be the confusing rules. Scooters are allowed but only for small children – it seems indiscriminate where the cut off is! Food is allowed, but only small snacks; fully fledged picnics are not allowed and no birthday cakes but cupcakes ok; If you are going to hold a little kids party definitely check rules first, you may be better holding an informal gathering!
It is a great all-rounder though for residents and visitors to the city alike with a great vibe.
Cost and opening times for Umm al Emarat Park: A flat 5dhs entry fee for all entrants over 3 years old. Train rides, the Wonder Maze and feeding the animals extra. Opens at 8am and close at midnight – last entry 11pm. Regular visitors may want to pick up a loyalty card 100dhs which includes 3 free visits.
Where: Based in Masdar City. You can easily see it from the road that crosses between al Raha Beach to the airport, though note to enter – ignore Google maps! You must come from the road that goes past Etihad Plaza; turn right towards the airport, then its an immediate right turn on the slip lane. If you hit Presidential Flight roundabout you’ve gone too far. There’s a second entry from within Madar City as well.
What to expect: A brand new entry to the Abu Dhabi outdoor scene for winter 2017/18 with lots of promise.
The playground has several climbing frames, is shaded and has a wonderful spongy surface. Unlike most other parks, the 8 onsite eateries, food truck style are parked around the play park so you can grab a coffee or a bite and chat with other parents while still keeping an eye on the kiddos with lots of seating area. Restrooms are right on hand too.
Facilities also include a 2.5km cycle running track, basketball courts (pre-book).
As part of Masdar City, a sustainability philosophy is in place, eco-friendly lighting and recycling prominent features. It’s a very modern take on playparks but I think it will become a popular one, especially for off-island parents who find Umm al Emarat a bit of a hike.
Cost & opening hours for Masdar Park: No entry fee, but bring cash for food. Open 9am to 10pm daily – floodlit in the evenings.
Further information: Masdar.ae
Yas Gateway Parks
Where: Two adjacent parks located on Yas Island – Yas Gateway Park South is closer to Ikea/Yas Mall, before turnoff off to the E10.
Yas Gateway Park North is accessible at the further point of Yas Island. You can take the Yas East exit (from the city this is AFTER the exit you’d take for Yas Mall). This road will pop you out on to “Yas Tourist Drive”. Turn left here rather than right, two sets of lights later take a left, and the next left will bring you into the park. Take a right at the first roundabout to find the play parks.
What to expect: The parks, are in fact, parking spots for when the Grand Prix is on, but for the other 51 weeks of the year they’ve usefully been opened as public park space.
More than just a pretty looking car park you will find here playparks and restroom facilities as well as lots of grassy space. Its the perfect spot for a good run around or teaching your kids to ride bikes with lots of flat pavement. Its also a popular picnic and BBQ spot. The dual play parks are only in Yas Gateway Park North.
The fact these parks are a little less known means they are also at times a little under-maintained, you may find yourself needing to do a little litter pick up before you get started in the playgrounds. But the equipment is quite extensive and its great for exhausting the littles – great for plane spotting too right under the flight path!!!
Costs and opening times: Free to enter and doesn’t appear to be any gates restricting entry but the playpark is not lit.
New Airport Garden
Where: A little-known hidden gem of an oasis! You approach the International Airport then immediately before the departures ramp you should see the exit signposts to Terminal 2 and “garden parking”. Turn right here and then another immediate right you’ll be in the car park.
What to expect: A great open space and play equipment, barbequing permitted. If your kids wanted to come on their bikes and scooters it’s a great spot, a little hilly so not for absolute beginners. The play equipment itself is just a bit dated, but its spotted all over the park so loads of space to spread out. Toilets on site but they’re a bit of a walk depending on where you are.
Cost and opening times: 1dhs per person, infants free. The car park has a 10dhs/hr entry fee but don’t panic, this is not payable if you get your parking ticket validated at the park entry. Park hours 3pm to 10.30pm. Open from 9am weekends.
Update January 2018: We tried to visit the first week of this year and the park entry is sadly all chained up. The security guard tells me they closed entry 3 months ago with no explanation why; watch this space if this one will reopen!
Al Bahia Park
Where: (Also known as Al Bahiya) Another off-island option that was little known until the opening of Deerfields Mall. From the city take the exit 39 as you would for Deerfields. At the roundabout take a right where there’s a little set of shops and another right. Drive 300m and you’ll see the parking.
What to expect: A beautifully manicured park with a big variety of different play areas. Some equipment sadly in a little disrepair at times we’ve visited but pretty good for all age groups as a whole. Can get busy at dusk as local families come in large groups to picnic. You can take your bikes and scooters but it does get a little crowded and items can get ah, misplaced.
Restrooms on site but can be a bit of a hike depending on where you are in the park, not the most glamorous.
There is also a public library (yes they do exist in Abu Dhabi) in the corner of the park. Opening hours are advertised as 8am-8pm Sunday to Thursday and 4pm-8pm Saturday.
Cost and opening times: Free to enter but note restricted opening times 3pm til 10pm, but I’ve heard of people turning up and needing to wait. Summer hours seem to vary too.
Where: The city’s famous 8km long water frontage runs all the way along the north-western end of Abu Dhabi island. You will need to find parking (all Mawaqif) on the parks side of the road and cross by traffic light or tunnel to the beach. Popular spots to park are at the end of 30th – in front of the ADNOC Building and at the Family Park, or further east near Lake Park.
What to Expect: There are several spots you can stop along here with massive renovation works along the water frontage all but complete (until they dig up another section). There’s the beach one side of the Corniche road and a string of parks on the other.
Some of the popular family play parks along the Corniche include
- The Corniche Beach Playground (immediately adjacent to the Beach Plaza)
- The Family Park (in fact several small playgrounds for different age groups here including the popular ‘pirate ship playground’)
- The Family water park, skate park and basketball courts
- Urban Park – water features and cafe but not so much for kids
- Lake Park – a couple of playgrounds and exercise area
- Formal Park (including the Corniche Labyrinth)
- Heritage Park (towards the Mina Port end)
And of course there’s the beach itself, there are many public areas as well as designated family areas. Those wanting some additional luxury at cost can head into Nation Riviera Beach Club or the Hiltonia.
NEW in 2018! We saw the opening of beach front area A’l Bahar which includes inflatable water park Aqua Fun (we review this attraction here), as well as a restaurant and entertainment area, huge covered beach play park and in the evening a load of entertainment booths including ropes courses and a lot of fitness areas including basketball courts and a skate area.
All along the length of the beach, there is a cycle track and footpath for budding exercise enthusiasts. You can hire bikes here as well from FunRideSports (from 20AED/15AED kids) or pick up a Cyacle bike share from dozens of locations across the city from 20AED.
Cost and opening times: To enter the family beach there’s an entry fee of 10AED per family but other parts of the beach are free.
Al Bateen Beach
Where: On the western coast of Abu Dhabi Island near the corner of 19th and 30th. If you are coming up Khaleej al Arabi (30th) from the city, cross the intersection with 19th, and take an immediate right into the next slip lane (signposted “Local Access”). Al Bahr Rd takes you to the road parallel to the beach, make a right-hand turn and turn at the roundabout into the car park.
What to expect: Nothing glitzy and glamorous about it, just a good old-fashioned community beach park. There are some lovely lawned areas, kids play area and beach front. Nothing much to look at but the waters are lovely and calm and you don’t get the tourists here making it an ideal after school and weekend hideout.
There is a small on-site kiosk and pedalo boats to hire. There’s also a dedicated ladies beach here – boys over 6 not permitted.
Cost: Free public beach. Ladies beach has an entry fee of 25AED per lady and 5AED for kids 3-12 years. Open 8am to 9pm but no swimming after sunset.
Yas Marina Circuit and Promenade
Where: In the centre of Yas Island at Yas Central, enter through Gate 20 (almost opposite Yas Links golf course entrance). Accessible on the Yas shuttle service if you are staying at one of the Yas Plaza hotels. Marina is accessible by taking a u-turn at the first set of traffic lights after the tunnel, then make an immediate right into the slip lane after making u-turn.
What to expect: Want to pretend you’re a Grand Prix legend? Open nights at the track sponsored by Daman ActiveLife are a great fun way to get out and exercise. The 5.5km or 3km tracks are open to cycle, run or walk several times a week.
It is also great to walk around the Yas Marina Promenade. Here you’ll find water sprinklers on weekends and a small but lovely playground on a spongy surface, as well as restaurants and leisure facilities. Most weekdays and you’ll pretty much have this gorgeous little spot to yourself but weekends can get very busy in the park. (NB it is not walking distance to Yas Central and the Mall and a pretty decent walk from Yas Plaza hotels, but there is a semi-regular shuttle from here to the Mall and other Yas destinations or only a short taxi)
Cost and opening times: Free! Registration and safety briefing needed for your first visit to the track, but thereafter just walk/ride right on to the track with your card. Hire bikes cost extra. Track is open to all Sunday’s (StartYas) 6pm to 10pm and Tuesday’s (TrainYas). Wednesday’s GoYas sessions 6pm to 9pm are for ladies only on a modified 3km track.
Further Information: yasmarinacircuit.com
Abu Dhabi’s small hidden play spots
One of the first things we noticed when moving to Abu Dhabi is just how many public play parks there are scattered across the city. Many, however, were old and lacked the sort of facilities you’d expect like shade clothes, nearby restrooms and eateries.
As you can see from the list above – things have changed a lot over the years we have called this city home and the bar has certainly been raised – but not all information about Abu Dhabi’s great little play parks is widely shared.
We’ve highlighted some of the lesser known ones we know, especially around Khalifa City which still remain pretty poorly signposted and hidden in amongst the houses but are well worth it.
If Map is not working try typing these coordinates
- Khalifa City Play Park (Pink Shops) 24.4220601, 54.5736827
- Khalifa Splash Park (near Children’s House Montessori) 24.4220601, 54.5736827
- Khalifa City Play Park SE-24 (Women’s College) 24.4167622, 54.5914638
- New Shahama Park 24.537547, 54.6912877
Did we miss your neighbourhood favourite? Let us know below!
Now you can’t go past the fact we live with one of the worlds largest playgrounds right on our doorstep – the Desert! From desert safaris to camping, sand boarding or dune biking. Far from being “just a big pile of sand” (yeah, I was an early critic), it is a truly magical place to take your kids and let them run wild.
We have a much more detailed guide on how to get out and enjoy desert camping here.
If camping isn’t your thing though, how about trying some of these luxury (many kids approved!) desert resort options instead. They include extensive outdoor sports options, swimming pools, kids clubs at some along with culture options and most importantly wide open spaces and tranquillity away from the city.
Still to come in 2019 and beyond
Parks and public spaces have been given big priority in future Abu Dhabi developments. Some of the big ones we are aware of that should be opening soon include;
- Reem Central Park. A 1million square foot development on Al Reem Island – some of the features will include a skate park, climbing wall, reflective pool along with a mosque and scenic promenade. (Now open, we will update our listing shortly)
- Al Qana. A stretch alongside 30th Street in Al Maqta (next to the Shangri-La) will be transformed to create a mixed purpose development straddling the canal including a marina, aquarium, cinema, restaurants as well as play parks and canal front promenade.
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These are just our choice of free or really cheap options – we know there are many more awesome paid activities in the outdoors too like Emirates Park Zoo in Al Shahama, kayaking and donut boats on Eastern Mangroves, visiting the cities many islands and taking boat cruises, some of the cities fabulous paid beach facilities on Yas and Saadiyat Islands. The list is huge!!
For more UAE activities in Abu Dhabi and beyond don’t forget to check out our list off 100+ ideas of things to do with kids in the UAE
Have we covered all your favourites here? Where else do you love taking the kids in the cooler weather?
Disclosures: All these attractions are based on our own opinion with no paid endorsement and details accurate as at the time of writing in Juanry 2018. This page contains advertising links.
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