‘Traveling’ always makes the short list of New Year’s resolutions. Not only do we understand the draw, but we’re in the business of making it happen. Our advice to kick off 2018: don’t wait. Travel plans don’t happen by themselves. And we never know what tomorrow will bring. Just do it. We’re here for you. Wishing you a rich and meaningful year ahead!
Erika Reategui and Fernando Gonzalez
In 1990, Dubai was a desert. Today it’s one of the world’s fastest-growing and safest cities, as well as a top tourist destination. Our adventure lovers Sekita Ekrek and Gabrielle Olson recently flew 14 hours to find out why it’s called The Manhattan of the Middle East. Combined with neighboring Abu Dhabi, this UAE getaway is full of unexpected thrills and bucket-list moments.
Here is our insider’s guide on where to stay, what to see, and where to eat and drink:
Stay at the One&Only The Palm in Dubai.
Our Wonderwall property has the best of all worlds. A luxury address on the spectacular Palm Island (so large it can actually be seen from space), and easy access to the major sites of the city. Rooms are enormous with contemporary décor and hints of Arabic touches. The central pool is a showstopper. Definitely spend time at 101 Dining Lounge and Bar on the water. A 5-minute shuttle boat transports you to sister property One&Only Royal Mirage.
Do a half-day City Tour.
This fascinating tour not only gives you the lay of the land but allows you to ask probing questions about Emirati customs, daily life and how the city was built in record speed.
Fly above Dubai’s dazzling skyline in a seaplane.
To get a true sense of how breathtaking the city is, soar high in the sky on Seawings. You’ll get panoramic views of the iconic sights including Palm Island (Palm Jumeirah), the Burj Khalifa, and World Island under construction. The seaplane departure is just outside the stunning Park Hyatt Dubai, so make some time to grab a drink, lunch or even a spa treatment before you take off.
Spend an evening at the Dubai Mall.
Get ready for some of the greatest shopping and people watching ever. The largest mall in the world has a tantalizing selection of the best international brands. It also has the best show in town – the nightly Dubai Fountain spectacle, set against the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. It happens every half hour starting at 6pm. Grab a table at one of the outdoor restaurants lining the fountains for the best views. We promise you’ll be moved by the majestic water dance swaying to the sound of Whitney Houston.
Splurge on Afternoon Sky Tea at the Burj Al Arab.
This iconic hotel in the shape of a sail put Dubai on the map. It’s the only 7-star hotel in the world and a tourist attraction in itself. It’s even tall enough to fit the entire Statue of Liberty inside. After a lavish afternoon tea on the 27th floor, stroll around with the dozens of other tourists admiring the views, fleet of Bentleys, and 24-carat gold plating.
Check into the St. Regis Abu Dhabi.
This downtown beach-front hotel has the perfect WONDERWALL location along the Corniche. Relax by tranquil blue shores, take a dip in the gorgeous pool, or indulge in treatments at Remede Spa. At night a choice of hot dining options, paired with great music, along the beach includes Asia de Cuba and Catch.
Visit the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque.
We were blown away by the architecture and beauty of Abu Dhabi’s iconic house of worship, which was completed in 2007. Walk through the inner courtyard to admire the largest marble mosaic in the world. Proper attire is required, and women may borrow an abaya and headscarf for their visit.
Book a Sunset Desert Safari.
This is a bucket list experience. Drive out into the golden desert from either Dubai or Abu Dhabi in a private 4×4 for some rollicking dune bashing. You’ll stop just in time to capture the most spectacular sunset, before trying your hand at camel riding. After hours of thrilling fun, relax under the stars with a traditional Bedouin camp feast.
Sekita and Gabrielle flew on Etihad’s excellent new A380 service to Abu Dhabi, which conveniently offers pre-clearance of US customs from Abu Dhabi airport.