'What is there for children to do in Dubai?'

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The Independent Travel

Q. I'm taking my six-year-old twins to Dubai later this month. We'll meet my husband there, and stay four or five days. Apart from the beaches, what is there to appeal to young children? Also, can you recommend family-friendly restaurants that cater to two fussy eaters? F Hollins, via email

A. Children are justly celebrated in Arab culture, and the United Arab Emirates is no exception. Dubai, unsurprisingly, boasts an ever-increasing array of child-friendly attractions and many hotels have first-rate children's clubs with supervised play areas, video games and organised activities.

If you haven't already booked accommodation, consider the Jumeirah Beach Hotel (00 971 4 348 0000; jumeirahbeachhotel.com), where Sinbad's Kids Club will reopen at the end of the month after refurbishment. With its boat-like design, it will offer a wide array of activities including arts and crafts, drama and sports. Executive family rooms cost 4,560 dirhams (£722) per night at the end of October, with breakfast; access to Sinbad's is included in the price.

There's a lot to keep children entertained outside the hotels, such as the Wild Wadi water park (00 971 4 348 4444; wildwadi.com), which is open daily 11am-7pm, although throughout October it is opening early to families, at 8am. Set in Jumeirah, 20 minutes from the city centre, it has 30 water rides with names as suggestive as Master Blaster and Rushdown Ravine.

The park is very safe, with plenty of lifeguards, and has several restaurants on site. Admission is 195 dirhams (£31) per adult and 165 dirhams (£26) for children less than 1.1 metres tall.

Overshadowing the Wild Wadi, with its 65,000 marine creatures and array of waterslides, is the recently opened Atlantis (00 971 4 426 0000; atlantisthepalm.com), an enormous new resort at the crest of the artificial Palm islands. Even if you don't book into one of its 2,100 dirhams (£332) rooms, you can visit the extravagant Aquaventure water park and its beach, or the Lost Chambers Atlantis-themed aquarium. A panoply of dining options includes offerings from Nobu Matsuhisa, Giorgio Locatelli and Santi Santamaria.

For something more low-key but just as much fun, you could go on a desert safari, which is a welcome contrast to the gleaming modernity of the city.

Arabian Adventures (00 971 4 303 4888; arabian-adventures.com) offers a Sundowner Dune Dinner Safari Tour, picking you up from your hotel for a bumpy 45-minute drive across the desert to enjoy the sunset and see camels, followed by an evening barbecue and traditional entertainment for 320 dirhams (£51) per adult and 290 dirhams (£46) per child.

From the dunes to the slopes. Having the world's largest indoor snow park in such a hot, arid country doesn't chime with environmental awareness, but Ski Dubai (00 971 4 409 4000; skidxb.com) is undeniably popular. With an area of 22,500 snow-covered square metres, the beginners' slopes and Swiss restaurants in this quirky, surreal complex are a bizarre addition to the city. The park opens daily 9am-midnight; a one-day Ski Slope Pass costs 300 dirhams (£47), and 240 dirhams (£38) for children.

If you've had your fill of climatic extremes and wallet-emptying admission fees, you could drop in at Children's City (00 971 4 334 0808; childrencity.ae), which is filled with interactive exhibits, most of which focus on nature and space travel, as well as culture and history. It opens 9am-8.30pm daily, except on Friday, when it opens 3-8.30pm; 40 dirhams (£6.30) for a family ticket for four.

In keeping with Arab tradition, restaurants in Dubai, even if lacking a specific children's menu, are usually happy to scale down their main courses and make suggestions for hungry children. Favourite American eateries such as Johnny Rockets (00 971 4 341 2380; johnnyrockets.com) and Planet Hollywood (00 971 4 324 4777; planethollywood-dubai.com) are plentiful. A healthier option is Satwa's Organic Café (00 971 4 398 9410; organicfoodsandcafe.com), whose menu offers easy pleasers such as spaghetti bolognese, salads and juices.

More local flavours can be found at Al Reef (00 971 4 396 1980) on Zabeel Road, where you can introduce the family to mezze such as tabuleh (parsley and bulgur wheat salad), kibbeh (lamb meatballs), jawannah (charcoal-grilled chicken wings) and mouttabal (a smoky aubergine dip), as well as more familiar favourites such as hummus and falafel.

Send your family travel queries to The Independent Parent, Travel Desk, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or email crusoe@independent.co.uk

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