The UAE looks set to give Orlando a run for its money, throwing down the gauntlet to become a global theme park destination. The region is already home to a number of thrilling water parks (Yas Waterworld, Wild Wadi, Aquaventure, Iceland and Dreamland) and in the last few years, Dubai and Abu Dhabi have been upping the ante with the introduction of IMG Worlds and the sports car themed Ferrari World, home to both the highest loop and fastest rollercoasters in the world.
This year we have not one, not two, but THREE new theme parks to enjoy, located just outside of Dubai in the complex known as Dubai Parks & Resorts. Each of the three parks is skewed towards a different demographic, from the child friendly Legoland Dubai to the more adrenaline fuelled attractions at Motiongate and finally, the movie inspired Bollywood Parks Dubai.
It’s entirely possibly to visit all three parks in one (long) day and on our recent visit there were very few queues for the individual rides, though it should be noted that some attractions are not yet open to the public. Dubai Parks & Resorts is easily located from the E11 highway between Abu Dhabi and Dubai and signage is good. No matter which park you’re visiting, guests arrive at the central parking area and board the shuttle bus from there. Disappointingly, guests have to pay a parking charge of AED 50, which seems a little unfair considering the fact that public transport options are limited. After 6:30pm though parking is free, in a bid to encourage visitors to Riverland and its plethora of dining options.
Shuttle buses run frequently from the main parking area stopping at Riverland, Legoland and finally Motiongate/Bollywood Parks. Not an ideal system with the amount of pushchairs and excited children but a necessary one as the distance is unwalkable
Riverland is a retail complex running along the edge of (you guessed it) a river. The pathways traverse four distinct zones – French Village, Boardwalk, India Gate and the Peninsula. Each zone is individually themed with the French Village centered on a Medieval European village featurng a wooden water wheel and stone towers, as if snatched straight out of Disney’s Beauty & The Beast. Aside from the obligatory McDonalds, Bagel Bar and Leopolds Of London, guests can enjoy the acrobatics of street performers who take over the narrow alleyways at selected intervals throughout the day.
The Peninsula is home to the licensed premises housed within a central piazza that has the capacity to hold large events and perhaps even concerts. The main establishment is the Irish Village, a larger version of the popular haunt found in Garhoud.
The Boardwalk feels like a 1950s Miami and offers a slice of Americana that’s home to the majority of the restaurants. We spotted firm favourites Famous Dave’s, UK imports Tortilla and Tom’s Kitchen Deli in addition to Big Chef’s, SuperChix, Nusr-Et Burger (yes #Saltbae), Shake Shack and everyones favourite confectionary shop FuzzyWiggs.
Finally, India Gate marks the entrance to Bollywood Parks and is home to Barbecue Delights, Shrimpy and chain favourites Costa Coffee and Jamba Juice. With more outlets soon to open, there’ll be over sixty restaurants, including an impressive looking Cheesecake Factory. Though it would be nice to have some fine dining options available.
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We recently stumbled upon @tomskitchendeli from celebrity chef @tomaikens. Though the place may be casual, this spiced lamb burger with red pepper relish and cucumber yoghurt was fantastic. A must try when visiting @dubaiparksresorts 🍔 ・・・ #Dubai #DXB #UAE #UnitedArabEmirates #MyDubai #Foodie #Eat #Dinner #InstaFood #InstaYum #Blogger #DubaiBlogger #UAEBlogger #BloggersUAE #OutAndAboutUAE #Burger
Our first stop was at Legoland and although the waterpark wasn’t completed at the time of our visit, it’s now officially open for business. Legoland is the most complete of all the parks at DPR with all rides 100% operational. Our only other Legoland experience had been at the UK location in Windsor and the Dubai park represents a complete replica in terms of attractions, covering a far smaller area, ideal when considering the summer climate in the desert.
With over forty attractions to experience, it’s actually the theming that’s the main draw when it comes to Legoland, with thousands of intricate structures built from Lego blocks. Passing through a busy shopping street, guests arrive at Mini land which is a staple of all Legoland parks worldwide. Here you can explore miniature replicas from around the globe, including the treasury at Petra and Egypt’s pyramids of Giza. Being the UAE, the focus is firmly on Dubai, with a replica of the Sheikh Zayed Road complete with roaming metro trains and intricate re-constructions of the Burj Al Arab, Burj Khalifa and Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Mosque.
From the air conditioned comfort of Mini land visitors can access the various zones of the park including The Kingdom, a Medieval castle themed around dragons and wizards, significant for its popular apple fries (yes that’s right, french fries made from apples)! Home to The Dragon, the largest rollercoaster in the park (riders must be at least 120 cm to ride) which looks exceptionally thrilling considering it’s aimed strictly at the under twelve crowd. For those with younger children, Legoland is ideal for a day out but it should be noted that aside from the Boating School (which has some severe issues regarding the loading of the vessels) and Duplo train, there’s little for toddlers to do aside from the playground and opportunity to play with Lego.
Our five year old however was in her element and throughly enjoyed the laser shooting in the Lost Kingdom Adventure and the power skiing on the water-based Wave Racers. The remaining attractions are variations on the usual fairground attractions of teacups and carousels with the exception of Submarine Adventure, taking you underwater in a Lego submarine to explore an aquarium of sharks. Staff throughout the park are friendly and cheerful, doling out hi-5’s with gleeful abandon.
Motiongate was our favourite of the three parks and uses some of the most popular Hollywood movies of the last decade as inspiration for its rides. Promising to be the most thrilling rides in the park, the Hunger Games attractions are unfortunately still yet to open but are said to take riders on an Aerial Tour Of Panem. Additionaly, the Capitol Bullet Train is a launched roller coaster that will send riders backwards, forwards, and upside down! Both attractions show little sign of completion anytime soon and will hopefully add a much-needed injection into the attractions at DPR which may be considered thrilling for the Middle Eastern Market, but pale in comparison to offerings at the bigger theme parks in both the US and UK.
Motiongate feels like old Hollywood, with a boulevard of Art Deco buildings and retail outlets with names like ‘ the supporting act’. A roll of celluloid unravels along the floor, creating a pathway into some truly spectacular theming which includes an American diner made out of ice cream cones, stacked pancakes and banana skins.
Motiongate is more a case of style over substance and aside from the impressive theming, the attractions themselves seem somewhat lacking. The Ghostbusters: Battle for New York is basically a re-tooled version of the Lost Kingdom Adventure ride in Legoland, with riders using laser guns to shoot at supernatural forces. The Green Hornet: High Speed Chase is a standard rollercoaster of dips and inclines but again, nothing we haven’t seen numerous times before. At times it feels like Motiongate is a park from ten years ago and that they weren’t willing to invest the money in the more extreme fear-inducing attractions on offer at other global competitors.
At an elevation of 58m Zombieland Blast Off is your standard drop tower and despite the technology displayed throughout your exploration of the 2,800sqm castle in the Hotel Transylvania attraction. The ride is prone to technical issues (breakdowns) and transpires to be a little… well… boring!
Water rides are perfect for the Dubai climate and the Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs – River Expedition shows a lot of promise with its mixture of river rapids and log flumes. Adjacent is the Smurfs Village, aimed at younger guests and featuring a studio tour simulation, outdoor playground and miniature rollercoaster.
Another problem we envision is the navigation of the parks themselves, offering little in terms of shade (perhaps this will be remedied before the summer months) and the need to walk great distances. It would appear that something has gone awry in the design of these parks and we can’t realistically see how people are supposed to visit during the height of summer when the thermometer is pushing forty degrees.
Thankfully, the largest area of Motiongate is Dreamworks and the family friendly attractions here are all housed indoors. Split into four areas themed around animated movies Shrek, How To Train Your Dragon, Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda. During our visit the dragon zone was completely inaccessible though is said to boast a swinging viking ship. The Shrek zone was open and themed around a fairytale forest but again the rides were closed. Madagascar is fully functional with the Mad Pursuit rollercoaster being the best attraction in the whole park and the Kung Fu Panda zone is partially operational with a teacup ride, Mr. Ping’s Noodle Fling.
Now our knowledge of Bollywood movies is by no means extensive but a trip to Bollywood Parks is an immersive experience into the sounds and colours of these Indian movies. The theming in Bollywood Parks is exquisite and the prominent features are peacock stained glass and the massive elephant structures. All of the attractions here are thankfully located inside and deviate from the expected rollercoasters, instead revolving around simulators, to literally take visitors into the screens of these movies.
Outside on the street are stalls selling chai, samosas and other specialities and at timed intervals throughout the day guests can expect an explosion of colour and dancing in the streets.
The focal point in the park is the Royal Plaza with its gleaming white Rajmahal Theatre, home to the region’s first Broadway-style Bollywood musical which promises a visual spectacle. Stroll along Mumbai Chowk and into a replica of the central train station, complete with train carriages that brought back vivid memories of our extensive travels around India back in spring 2006.
The Rustic Ravine is home to two of the most popular rides in the park and these were the ones that related to the only movies we had actually seen, but realistically you don’t need to know the movies to enjoy the attractions here at Bollywood Parks. Lagaan allows guests to join Bhuvan and his team in a game of cricket against the British Raj. We don’t want to spoil this one for you but it’s probably the best ride in the park. Meanwhile the Sholay ride using 3D interactive technology in another shooting style adventure.
Bollywood Parks is the smallest of the three and if there’s no queues it’s easy to cover everything (minus the shows) in an hour or two. Don’t miss the superhero themed rides in the Bollywood Studios zone that feature fan favourites Krrish and Ra.One.
Dubai Parks & Resorts makes for a fun filled and (at times) adrenaline fuelled day out and with the addition of the Polynesian themed Lapita Hotel and forthcoming Legoland Hotel, it’s quite feasible that tourusts will come to Dubai purely to visit the theme park complex.
With the parks still undergoing some finishing touches there are some great deals to be had. We availed a special offer that allows guests to visit all three parks in one day for the price of AED299, a relative bargain when considering the adult entry fee for EACH individual park is around the same price. Lucky for us UAE residents, DPR offers 30% off the ticket price for each park on the presentation of a valid Emirates ID or for those looking for a regular theme park fix, annual passes start from AED 2,495.
Dubai Parks is a successful operation and despite some skepticism and bad press regarding the staggered opening, we thoroughly enjoyed our day across the three parks, each uniquely different but full of family fun.
One word of advice. We visited on a weekend, when you would expect the parks to be busy and the longest queue we experienced was around five minutes. So while the parks are still in this soft opening phase, we suggest you save your hard earned dirhams and don’t opt for the fast passes that allow you to skip the lines. At this time they’re completely unnecessary.
The UAE is set to become a haven for theme park enthusiasts and looks likely to continue the tourist boom for those in search of an alternative to malls, beaches and brunches. DPR is adding another new park in the form of American favourite, Six Flags that’s scheduled to open in 2019 and will feature at least three world record breaking rides (including the world’s largest rollercoaster) in addition to six coasters, four aerial rides and a 350m river rapids attraction.
Meanwhile IMG is adding another park to what is already the world’s largest indoor theme park, that will include rides based on Sponge Bob Square Pants, Dora The Explorer, Power Rangers, Barbie, Pokemon and Dragonball Z and is due to open in 2020.
Not to be left out, expansion works are on-going at Ferrari World Abu Dhabi with the opening of the brand new Turbo Track attraction and the forthcoming SFX coaster which is currently shrouded in mystery. Additionally, Yas Island will be getting a Warner Brothers park with 29 attractions in 2018, based on popular brands like the DC Universe, Bugs Bunny and Scooby-Doo.
Location: Sheikh Zayed Road, Opposite Palm Jabel Ali, Duba
Social: Instagram / Facebook / Twitter
Hours: 10am – 10pm (times vary per park)
Phone: 800 AMAZING (2629464)
All views within this blog are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE.