Travel & Leisure

From winter wonderlands to classic holiday movies under the stars, discover the top festive family experiences in Dubai this December


From winter wonderlands to classic holiday movies under the stars, discover the top festive family experiences in Dubai this December

Whether it’s the weather or the vast spread of experiences, December in Dubai is always a treat. Mark your calendars with all the things to do, see, eat and create, getting in the holiday spirit.

1 . Santa’s Secret Island at Bluewaters

Santa Claus is coming to town, turning the idyllic Bluewaters into his secret island. Light installations, themed decorations and roaming entertainment will deck the island’s avenues with winter whimsy, plus magical snowfall to really set the scene from 5pm to 10pm. Moreover, kids can get creative at crafting workshops, such as card and candy making, face painting, and more. Madam Tussauds is hosting a tree-lighting ceremony on 8 December, where you can decorate a wax mould of your hand, sip on hot chocolate and tour the museum’s wax figures decked out in festive gear thanks to a one-day-only discount in which kids visit for free!

The real showstopper is the 800 drones taking over Bluewaters’ sky for the Dubai Shopping Festival. Secure a spot alfresco at one of the island’s waterfront restaurants to see Dubai’s story animated in floating lights. One show chronicles Dubai’s evolution from the past to the present, while the other takes viewers through a portal into the emirate’s unseen future. 

Santa’s Secret Island and snowfall: 9-30 December, 5-10pm

Madame Tussauds: 8 December, 6-7pm

Kids activities: 9-30 December (Saturdays and Sundays), 5-10pm

DSF Drones: 8 December – 14 January, 8pm and 10pm


2 . Winter wonderland at Souk Madinat Jumeirah

Souk Madinat Jumeirah transforms into a magical winter wonderland this December, from its Arabian marketplace to its sunlit amphitheatre. Mr and Mrs Claus are pitching a Grotto at the Souk’s spacious amphitheatre where little ones can share their holiday wish list, participate in themed arts and crafts workshops and catch performances by drummers and jugglers.

Even the Snow Queen and her frosty friends will take over the Souk’s labyrinthine halls, home to barrows and stalls selling exotic goods and award-winning restaurants offering festive menus and seasonal offers.

When: 15 – 25 December, 4-10pm
Snow Queen and performers: 5pm, 6pm, 7pm, 8pm

3 . Prance through JBR’s Promenade

From chic boutiques and homegrown pop-ups to family-favourite restaurants and street food galore, JBR is the perfect place to dine, shop and stroll. The ongoing JBR Winter Nights experience continues to delight families with workshops and outdoor movie nights across its 1.7km promenade and plaza levels. Catch film screenings of holiday classics like Home Alone, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Santa Clause or themed entertainment – including an appearance by Santa and his elves on 16 December – from one of JBR’s restaurants.

When: Until 31 December
Workshops: Saturday and Sunday, 5-9pm
Roaming entertainment: Saturday and Sunday, 6pm, 7pm, 8pm

4 . Seasonal spirit at Al Seef

Al Seef is among the most dynamic and mesmerising places to spend December. Dubai Lights returns to the waterfront destination, transforming Al Seef into a breathtaking canvas of light and neon decorations sharing inspirational and positive messages from Al Seef to the abras in the creek. A highlight of Dubai Lights is the arrival of the beloved Anookis who have been travelling the globe, turning building facades into vibrant playgrounds. The video-mapping characters created by French designers Moetu Batlle and David Passegand will charm visitors with their light shows, pulling inspiration from Al Seef’s old-world architecture and history. A massive and ornate festive tree towers above all the activity – a perfect backdrop to the incredible sights and experiences promising a memorable holiday for all ages.

At the same time, the Al Seef Creek Festival roars through the waterfront destination with cultural and educational activities, family entertainment, and exclusive dining and shopping offers. Enjoy live performances by talented artists and browse handicrafts, jewellery, fashion and homeware by grassroots businesses and homegrown artisans at an authentic Emirati souk and street market.


Al Seef Creek Festival: 21 October – 31 December, 4-10pm

Dubai Shopping Festival: 8 December – 14 January

5 . Shop and craft at The Outlet Village

There’s no place like The Outlet Village for a hard-hitting holiday shopping spree. Stock up on high-end gifts where special offers on designer clothes, sportswear and home décor await. Plus, shoppers can take advantage of a complimentary gift-wrapping service adding a festive touch to their shopping experience on the weekends.

When: Saturdays & Sundays, 9 December – 7 January, 4-10pm

6 . Santa’s Workshop at Mudon Community Centre

The North Pole isn’t only taking over Dubai’s iconic retail destinations – from 24 to 25 December, Santa is making a pitstop at Mudon Community Centre to meet and mingle with the neighbourhood. All weekend long, children can attend hands-on workshops, such as tree ornament-making and decorating Santa’s hat and write a wish letter or greeting card for the man of the hour.

When: 23 – 25 December, 4-9pm

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