Unlimited money can create amazing things, and Dubai is the epicentre of modern creation. It is ever evolving, and after swearing I’d never come back 9 years ago, I’ve watched the whole of the UAE grow and evolve from a distance.
Desperate for some April sunshine and warmth, and with the disappointment of last year’s trip to the Canary Islands still ringing in my ears, I pressed the magic “F**k it!” button and got to searching. Then reality hit me square in the face as I realised that committing to ‘Froggy’s Grand Dubai Return’ meant I was destined to spend hours trawling t’internet for decent flights and doing my best David Dickinson impression on a hunt for a hotel bargain.
“Relaxation” isn’t a word in the Frogson family dictionary, so I spiced up the holiday with two different hotel bookings to break up the time a bit and keep Mrs F on her toes. The first hotel we hit was the Lapita Resort, a Polynesian-themed family resort about 30 minutes outside of central Dubai (or 40 minutes from the airport) and slap bang next to Legoland, Motiongate, River Land theme park and more. Having never been to Polynesia before, I likened this to have all the trappings of a Thai beach resort – minus the beach. Green, peaceful, and beautiful – a little slice of paradise in the UAE desert.
Following a sleepless flight over and a very early morning landing, we did the only logical thing. No, that wasn’t a chilled day soaking up the Emirati sun; we hit the theme parks. Our chosen package at the Lapita Resort included full access to all the local theme parks, which saved a serious dent in the old wallet and kept little Miss Frogson happy (and me, obviously)! If you haven’t had the chance to experience theme parks done the Emirati way, they really are something else. We kicked off with Motiongate, which transports you from the UAE desert into the heart of over 40 instantly recognisable titles from Dreamworks Studios, Lionsgate, Columbia Pictures, and Smurfs, spread across 4 immaculate studio zones. The journey through River Land to Motiongate blew my sleep-deprived brain and I seriously questioned whether we’d landed in Dubai that morning. Walking through River Land teleports you to a French riverside village with incredible attention to detail – backs up my beliefs that money really can build you anything in Dubai.
Ticking ride after roller coaster off the bucket list, we hit it hard until mid-afternoon when exhaustion hit us like a kiss from the express train. Walking back to the hotel made us realise that finally hunger had overcome excitement and we needed a food fix. I put my foraging cap on and got to work as the hunter-gatherer of the family, thoroughly impressing Mrs F and little Miss F when I wrangled us a wild McDonalds. But this McDonalds didn’t look like Clumber St or Angel Row. No groups of kids in hoods outside, just pimped-up Maccies with a finely tuned menu – Taking a good thing and making it better is in the DNA of Dubai. Rounding off the day with a relaxing afternoon snooze around the pool, basking in the sun and enjoying the beautiful hotel surroundings with a couple of beers and a slap-up evening meal, we got our heads down for a jam-packed day two.
Day two started with a relaxing 5-minute stroll through River Land to hit the morning’s destination – Legoland, Dubai. Legoland is super-sized (just like everything else here) and the creations are out of this world. Like most adults, I have a not-so-secret love for a bit of Lego, but the theme park, rides and waterpark are aimed more at a far, far younger audience. So, we headed back to Lapita for an afternoon poolside before hitting up Motiongate again for another blast of the rides in the evening twilight.
Back to the hotel for a nightcap, and a stark kick in the b*lls at the price of alcohol in Dubai. ‘F*ck it’ mode was activated and one too many overpriced beers were consumed. The fuzzy headed morning led to a (almost) unanimous decision for a lazy day round the pool soaking up the rays in Dubai’s little slice of Lapita paradise. With a sun kissed complexion and a bit of rehydration, I spied on the maps a shopping mall around a 10-minute walk away from the hotel. It seems like no one really walks in Dubai outside of the main city centre, but I wasn’t paying for a taxi for a 10-minute evening stroll. The Outlet Village was another striking building in the middle of nowhere, designed to resemble a typical Middle Eastern souk but with a modern twist. Crazy what money can buy.
That wrapped up 3 days at Lapita. Highly recommended, especially to anyone with kids or teens. Tropical paradise in the desert, and more theme parks than you can shake a stick at. What’s not to love?
Next morning, we packed up and headed down to the Jumeirah Beach area which has changed massively since my last visit 9 years ago. Checking into the grand old lady of Dubai, the Hilton Dubai Jumeirah, we bagged another early check in and shot up to the room to take in the view. And what a view it was, looking out at The Big Wheel standing at over 250m tall and dwarfing the neighbouring buildings.
Jumeirah is a busy area, which you’ll see if you spend 30 seconds checking out the Instagram account of any British “influencer”. Saturday is a party day, reminiscent of an afternoon on White Isle (Ibiza). Tunes blasting, beautiful people and an all-round good vibe as we strolled the scorching sands of the beaches. It’s easy to lose yourself in the noise of the jet skis, speedboats, football on the big screens, and the roar of supercars down on the walk. Vibrant isn’t a strong enough word. With the beach and pool scene scouted out it was back to the room to watch the sunset before checking out what the night-time scene had to offer.
Beach and Pool scene done, it was back to the room, watch the sunset and see what the night scene is all about.
The girls wanted to smash the Mall of the Emirates and, of course, I couldn’t deny myself a bit of time conducting some market research on the latest styles and trends; all in the name of the business, of course! The Mall of the Emirates is oppressively big, you could lose yourself in there for days and not see everything it has to offer. We hit saturation pretty quickly and headed back to The Walk for a cold beveragino or two. An experience like no other in the world I’m sure, The Walk is lit up like the Las Vegas strip and all I can see is money, money, big money everywhere. Top end supercars as far as the eye can see, used as everyday motors like we would pop to Tesco in a trusty Peugeot 206. No groups of Vauxhall Corsas with Coke can exhaust pipes here my friend, just pure, thorough-bred luxury and performance motors.
Wrapping up our Dubai renaissance on a Sunday meant a relaxing day for the Frogson clan. We’ve been here before and did the tours and excursions last time, so this one has been deliberately chilled. Dubai has something for everyone and there’s so much to see and do, we just chose not to this time.
Dubai is the epitome of money talks, but you don’t need rockstar wages to visit here. There’s something for every purse and wallet, from the budget Premier Inn or Ibis to the exuberant 7-star Burj Al Arab if you’re feeling a little fancy. This is the sort of place where the magic credit card could get you into a lot of trouble.
Yes, we loved it. We swore we’d never be back, but we’re glad we did. Now the wait for VISA to catch up with us and issue that dreaded credit card statement.
If money was no object, then maybe this would be a yearly thing.
Until then, maybe a short stay in Skegvegas will be on the cards next.