Recently I took a long-haul flight (click for my advice on this!) to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Dubai is best known for its lavish architecture, expensive cars, and out of the ordinary entertainment. As a city that quite literally popped up out of the desert in the last 25 years, this place is very unique and definitely worth a visit at some point in your life. With its oven-like temperatures in the summer, I highly recommend going between November and March when the “winter” weather is wonderful with average temperatures between 75 and 85 degrees. With so many things to do and see in Dubai, here is my list of seven must-do activities:

  1. Dubai City Half-Day Sightseeing Tour—I think a tour of Dubai on your first day is something that is a must so that you can get a feel of the destination, where things are and what you would like to do later on your trip. This tour gave a nice look at modern Dubai as well as old Dubai. You are also able to stop at the Souk or market to purchase local goods. I found this stop to be my least favorite time in Dubai. The vendors were extremely aggressive—you could not walk and “window” shop in peace because someone was sticking something in your face and trying to get you to buy something everywhere you went. One part of the tour I did enjoy was the opportunity to ride a Dhow boat across the Dubai Creek which was a really nice experience.

2.    Burj Khalifa—this is the country’s greatest architectural feat as it is the tallest building in the world with 163 floors! To say this structure stands out from the skyline is an understatement. There is no doubt when you see it dwarfing its neighbors that it is something special. The tower is connected underground to the Dubai Mall, so it is easy to access even though it is in the heart of the city. To go to the observation deck on the 124th floor, you take a speedy 90-second elevator ride. Once up top, the floor-to-ceiling glass windows give amazing views of the city, day or night. You can book tickets online in advance and choose the time of day you prefer.

3.  Dubai Fountain—adjacent to the Burj Khalifa is another spectacular sight, the Dubai Fountain. Also accessible from Dubai Mall and surrounded by great shops and restaurants, this is the largest musical fountain in the world. Shows start at 6 pm each night and repeat every 30 minutes. The enchanting musical performance lasts about 5 minutes and includes lights projected on the Burj Khalifa and water shooting up to 900 feet in the air! While viewing is free, I recommend going to one of the restaurant terraces in Souk Al Bahar. I ate on the terrace of Sansation Lounge Restaurant & Café which had great food and a great view.  The night was amazing for my first night in Dubai.

4.  Dubai Frame—of course having the largest building and musical fountain in the world is simply not enough for The city also has the world’s largest frame which naturally, is dripping in gold. I went to the top of the frame and had an amazing view of Dubai but what made it really magical was the glass floor. Although I walked across the floor and kneeled on it for photo ops, my skin was crawling the entire time.  It was very scary, but I did it, and I am sure you will too.

5.  Dubai Desert 4×4 Dune Bashing, Camel Riding, Sandboarding, and Dinner—I participated in this activity on my birthday, and it was truly amazing. T­he tour started in a 4×4 SUV that took you into the desert. We rode up and down dunes in the 4×4 (known as dune bashing), and it was a very exciting and exhilarating ride. The drivers are experts at controlling their vehicles while ensuring everyone’s heart skips a beat or two! Once we arrived at the desert camp, we also had the opportunity to ride camels. The ride was short and sweet, but it did the trick. Another activity was sandboarding, which sounds like a lot of fun, however, climbing to the top of the dune with a surfboard and stepping in deep sand was a workout that my body was not happy about. At the camp, there was also a henna tattoo station and a chance to take a photo with a falcon. The BBQ dinner was delicious, and the belly dancer and fire dancer kept us entertained. Sitting under the stars in the Dubai desert to have dinner was an experience that I will remember for the rest of my life. The group of girls that were with me stated that it was the best experience they had in Dubai.

6.  SKI Dubai—I was amazed there was a ski resort inside of a mall! And it was extremely cold! They provide you with snowsuits, boots, and gloves but bring socks and warm hat. There was a ski lift to take you to the top of the mountain which really made this an amazing experience. There were also penguins you can visit and a show. To top it all off, they had coffee and hot chocolate to make you feel warm and comfortable. I didn’t ski but did everything else, including the giant snowball, bobsledding, and icy body slide. It was big fun!

7.  Dhow Dinner Cruise—this buffet-style dinner was a great experience but had some advantages and disadvantages, depending on your desires. The boat gives you the option to dine inside or outside. As mentioned earlier, it can be quite hot in Dubai, no matter the time of year. So, if you sit outside, be prepared for the heat. However, the views of Dubai were amazing from the outside area, so the experience was quite different than if I had sat inside. Indoors is nice and climate-controlled, but it is much harder to get a view full as the boat cruises through the city.