I love theme parks. I love roller coaster rides and funnel cake dusted with icing sugar. My last theme park adventure was almost fifteen years ago, at Canada’s Wonderland in Toronto.
Until very recently, theme parks were a rarity in Dubai. I remember going to Al Nasr Leisureland as a kid in the 80’s. It was small, and the rides were pretty basic, but for a 6-year-old in a small town it was heaven.
Dubai depends on tourists, and it is actively positioning itself as a family-friendly tourist destination. To achieve this objective, Dubai has built an enormous property called Dubai Parks and Resorts.
I heard of the opening but did not know much about it, except that there would be something called Bollywood Parks. I did not know there is a Legoland, or a waterpark, or the enormous scale of the site.
Dubai Parks and Resorts is the largest multi-themed leisure and entertainment complex in the Middle East. It consists of three separate theme parks, a water park, a themed retail and dining destination called Riverland, and much more spread over 30 million square feet. A fourth theme park, Six Flags Dubai, will be added in 2019. In other words, it is mind-boggling in size, far bigger than Canada’s Wonderland.
Legoland Dubai and Riverland opened first in October 2016, followed by Bollywood Parks, Legoland Waterpark, and Motiongate. Each theme park has different areas inside it, with restaurants, rides, games, and a host of guest services. I am convinced Dubai residents still do not have information about this incredible entertainment juggernaut. Beyond the official opening there has been little in the way of marketing.
My 3-year-old niece was visiting from Singapore over the weekend and my brother was keen to take her to Legoland. They stayed at Anantara The Palm, which offered a 2-for-1 deal on tickets to Legoland and a free shuttle ride to the Parks. We decided to go on Sunday when there was a break in the rainy weather.
We arrived at 2pm and were transported from the parking lot to Legoland by tram. The park is extremely well organised, clean and beautifully landscaped, with greenery, lakes, fountains, and colourful buildings. There are plenty of bathrooms, and wheelchair and stroller access.
Legoland consists of 6 areas: Adventure, Imagination, Miniland, Kingdoms, Lego City, and Factory. Traveling with a toddler meant we could not cover everything, but we squeezed in rides, games, a meal, plenty of time on two of the many playgrounds and two visits to Miniland which displays all the region’s impressive landmarks made from lego blocks. We stayed until the park closed at 7pm.
Besides Canada’s Wonderland, I have been to Six Flags in the U.S., Disneyland Paris, and Tokyo Disneyland. From the little of Dubai Parks and Resorts that I experienced, it is definitely up there with the best theme parks in the world, if not better.
Here are some tips to help you plan a trip to Legoland with your family at Dubai Parks and Resorts:
- The price of a day pass at Legoland is AED 265 and does not include access to Legoland Waterpark – this can be added to your ticket for an additional cost. Dubai residents get a 30% discount and free parking if they purchase their tickets online. A complete list of ticketing options, including multi-park passes, can be found here.
- Annual membership is available and a better option if you plan to visit the Parks frequently.
- Arrive early. There is so much to do, and if you plan to go on the weekend you may need to factor in wait times for rides. If you want to avoid lines altogether, Q-Fast front-of-line access can be purchased separately.
- Because the park is both indoors and outdoors, I recommend going during the cooler months of the year. I cannot imagine making this trip strapped with kids and strollers in the heat!
- Wear closed, comfortable shoes. The area is absolutely massive with lots to see. Avoid sandals and loose, dangling jewellery – they can fly right off on faster rides.
- Our tram made two stops: the first at Riverland and then at Legoland. Riverland is the gateway to Dubai Parks and Resorts and has over 50 themed retail, dining, and entertainment experiences located on a waterfront. If you want to have a nice meal this is a great option. The best part: you do not need to purchase a ticket to enter Riverland.
- Some rides have a minimum height requirement of 95cm for children. No exceptions.
- Guest services include locker, stroller, and wheelchair rentals, prayer rooms, change rooms, ATM’s, Lost and Found, and a Baby Care Centre in Imagination that has bottle warmers, microwaves, and feeding chairs for nursing mothers.
- Dining options inside Legoland are limited and not very good or healthy, frankly. There are more and better restaurants within walking distance right outside Legoland’s entrance, and a re-entry stamp on your hand enables you to leave the park and re-enter the same day.
- My niece’s favourite ride was Submarine at Adventure. If you are going with small kids, this ride is a must. Bonus: no minimum height requirement.
Sadly, there is no funnel cake at Legoland. But there is something called Granny’s Apple Fries: warm granny smith apples dusted with cinnamon and sugar, served with vanilla cream dipping sauce. I didn’t get to try it, but if you do, let me know if it’s as delicious as it sounds!
Title image courtesy Gulf News