People in the UAE are extra happy right now because the second Eid holidays (i.e. Eid Al Adha) provides us a weeklong holiday. While I did a whirlwind trip to Philippines last July (the first Eid of the year after Ramadan), I decided to stay this time because I miss lazying at home though I might explore more of Dubai and some of the 7 emirates in UAE. If you are from the other side of the fence and would like to explore Abu Dhabi instead, this post is for you. Whether you are a tourist or resident randomly exploring this Eid, it will be worthwhile should you pick any of these. (Note: I have not considered those which I prefer to be explored when weather is not so sunny anymore.)
1. Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. This had been consistently voted amongt the world’s top 10 landmarks per TripAdvisor. If you only have 24 hours to spend in Abu Dhabi, this must be on top of your list. Entry is free of cost. You might want to take a peek through this post I previously wrote. Recommended duration of visit: 1 hour (unguided tour). (Tip: There are FREE guided tours in English and Arabic offered by the administration. Make sure you check their website for recent schedule.)
2. Desert Safari. The experience includes dune bashing, camel ride, buffet dinner, belly dance show, quad biking, sandboarding, and more. There are several tour operators which probably offer the same scope of attractions. However, if you book with Al Badeya Tourism which is leaning towards ‘clean fun’, the belly dancing is replaced by film showing. Further, alcoholic beverages are not available during dinner. Hence, it is suggested to double check with the tour operators what exactly is in store. I have tried the Desert Safari in Dubai. I personally prefer the quality of desert/Liwa Desert in Abu Dhabi. On the other hand, I enjoyed more the shows (performed during dinner) in Dubai. (Tip: Take advantage of the deals that let you pay only for 1 person and the other 1 gets it for free. I normally use an Entertainer voucher.) Here is my recent safari experience early this year. Estimated duration of safari: 3:00 PM – 9:00 PM (includes the pick up and drop off service from the tour operator).
3. Ferrari World. This indoor theme park was opened on the first year the Grand Prix (the final race then) was hosted by Abu Dhabi. It offers rides with thrills which range from average (family/kids’ ride) to extreme (Formula Rossa). There are activities for the entire family. Every year, a new attraction is added in terms of rides and shows. The Flying Aces (aka daredevil ride) is the newest cookie from the oven. Recommended duration of visit: at least 3 hours.
- Use Entertainer voucher or other deals to save on entrance fee. Or if you are intending to visit Yas Waterworld (see no. 5 in this post), you may consider getting the combo pass – for Ferrari World + Yas Waterworld. Tickets can be used months apart.
- If you are not willing to spend on entrance fee and/or time-constrained but would like to have a photo taken with a Ferrari World background, head to Yas Mall (see no. 4 in this post) and proceed to the connecting hall to Ferrari World. At certain times, you will even find mascots which enriches photo op experience.
Ferrari World as seen in the Cityscape event.
Flying Aces at night. If you are a coward like me, you may proceed to the viewing deck, take photos and enjoy the screams!
4. Rogo’s (roller coaster restaurant), Yas Mall. Housed in Yas Mall are some unusual concepts and one of this is this roller coaster restaurant. Basically, orders are placed via the tablet provided for each customer. Once the food is ready, it is ‘dropped’ from the kitchen upstairs; the yummies are then delivered via the roller coaster (with seat belts fastened) to the table. Fun experience.
One of the many courts in Yas Mall, the largest mall in Abu Dhabi. I personally liked this mall because of its sustainable architecture. Look at that roof. It may seem sunny during the summer, but it is cold inside the mall.
5. Yas Waterworld. I would otherwise call it ‘Slides World’ and majority of slides are meant for the adventurous only, some are for the slim ones (one slide is so thin!). Guess what? There is also a roller coaster inside. My favorite area is the wave pool.
- Always check the different deals like discounts for residents upon presentation of Emirates ID, vouchers, ladies night, etc.
- If you intend to purchase those photos taken by the resort’s photographers, try to purchase or collect it near the closing time. They would probably give you a discount.
6. Jumeirah Etihad Towers. We enjoyed our stay in this hotel last year because of the remarkable facilities and customer service. Alternately, I recommend you try one of their restaurants or enjoy coffee or high tea at the grand lobby.
This got more attention when some of the scenes from Fast & Furious 6 were filmed here. Opposite Etihad Towers is the Emirates Palace Hotel.
Emirates Palace Hotel (right) and Presidential Palace (left) as seen from one of the sky rooms in Etihad Towers.
7. Emirates Palace Hotel. This is a grand structure which showcases gold plated interior and other forms of lavishness. The ruler of Abu Dhabi does not live in this hotel, but at the Presidential Palace (sort of the White House) near it. There are executive rooms reserved for the royal family in this hotel though. Suggested duration of visit (if only for photo taking and appreciating the gallery/exhibit, if any): 1 hour.
(Tip: Make sure you have a reservation confirmation from one of the restaurants or cafes on your mobile phone since it would be required by the security officers when entering the main gate. The restaurants require minimum spending per person and your credit card details which might get charged if you will not show up. I suggest that if your intention is to only visit ‘free of cost’ establishments, make a reservation in one of the cafes – the one that charge the lowest (meaning the camel burger and other burgers which are so pricey they will make you poop gold) and do not provide your credit card details. Try to call at different timings until you reach the person who does not request your credit card details. The worst scenario is you will not find one. Hence, try to book for at least 1 person.)
8. Tiara Revolving Restaurant, Marina Mall. The closet mall to Emirates Palace and Etihad Towers is Marina Mall. Here you will find a revolving restaurant that will give you a panoramic view of Abu Dhabi city center. Will it make you dizzy? No. Prices are relatively reasonable and cheaper than the other (slowly) revolving restaurant in Le Meridien Hotel near Corniche. (Tip: Do not miss the photos in sepia and black & white on the wall. Those offer a peek to old Abu Dhabi, particularly the bedouins era.)
9. Abu Dhabi Corniche/ Heritage Village. The views that you that you can see from Tiara Revolving Restaurant (see no. 8 in this post) can be much appreciated up close from the Abu Dhabi Corniche. The Heritage Village which is near the Abu Dhabi Marina Yacht Club has no entrance fee. It serves as an open air museum. (Tip: If you are not willing to spend on or time constrained to do a desert safari (see no. 2 in this post) but would like to have a photo with the camel or even ride on it, go to Heritage Village. Photo taking with the camel is free. Riding on it is charged at AED 10 dirhams per person.)
10. Solar powered and driverless car, Masdar Institute. Near Abu Dhabi International Airport is Masdar Institute where you will find cars which have no driver and are charged via the stored solar power. Anyone who comes to this institute with his or her own car would need to park it just after the main entrance. Afterwhich, you would need to select any of the parked/stationed cards which is pretty self-operated. One of the reasons we come here is for Sumo Sam, a decent restaurant which serves one of the yummiest Japanese food in Abu Dhabi at a very reasonable price.
Opposite the wind tower is Sumo Sam. Definitely worth the drive from the city center. If you are commuting, check the bus that stops at Masdar Institute.
11. Emirates Park Zoo. I have been to this zoo at least three times. Each time I visit it becomes better in terms of facilities, attractions and services. It is remarkably clean and entrance fee is not that expensive. However, I find some shows (like the elephant show) overpriced when compared to the value you are getting from zoos from other countries. Therefore, if you are intending to visit zoos abroad, compare the prices and do the visit to whichever will give you more value for money. But within the UAE, this is by far a great zoo. (Tip: Visit earliest in the morning or late afternoon since the inhabitants are more lively then.) Suggested duration of visit: at least 2 hours. There are chalets where you can stay overnight, by the way.
12. Al Forsan International Sports Resort. If you want to go karting, this offers a cheaper option than Yas Marina Circuit. You may also try archery, target shooting (so fun!), and many other activities. Ensure that you have at least a soft copy of your passport or Emirates ID since they require it when you register. (Tip: When doing the karting, it might be more fun if you will do it with a group Hence, you might want to wait for another batch of customers-enthusiasts.)
13. Exhibits in Saadiyat Island. There are ongoing free exhibits in Manarat Al Saadiyat. However, these vary from time to time. Take note that Saadiyat and Yas Islands are very close to each other. Regardless if you are stopping for a exhibit or not, you might be interested to drive around St.Regis Hotel, Park Hyatt until you reach the Saadiyat Publich Beach. Such a wonderful stretch. Among the exhibits I absolutely liked is the ‘Seeing through Light’.
Mona Lisa with mustache will welcome you as you approach Manarat Al Saadiyat.
14. Saadiyat Beach. I personally do not suggest that you go to the beach this Eid as I find the weather still less bearable. Winter is yet to kick off. However, if you really crave for beach, my most favorite is the Saadiyat Beach. I blogged about why it is a stand out for me compared to other beaches in Abu Dhabi.
This list is comprised of the ones that are within the city center or mainland of Abu Dhabi. There are more to do and places to explore as you go to Al Ain (considered oasis), Western Region and other regions in Abu Dhabi.
I wish you enjoy your Eid holidays!