There’s no snow but you won’t miss it. Everything else you’ll have in abundance this December if you spend the festive period in Dubai. Christmas carols? Check! Winter wonderland street markets? Check! Seasonal feasts -check! Santa-themed attractions – check!
If you still have doubts about celebrating Christmas in a non-Christian nation then let me put you at ease. Dubai not only respects this Christian festivity but it honours it and goes out of its way to indulge those celebrating the most joyous time of the year. With a strong family undertone and a myriad of ways in which to join in the jolly atmosphere, this edition of Hot in Dubai is all about where to have the best Christmas fun.
Seasonal Joy – my top pick
It might not be chilly or indeed nowhere near snowy in Dubai to bring on that festive holiday mood. Yet to get into the holiday spirit there are plenty of winter-themed festivals to attend for young and grown-ups alike. Here are my top picks of seasonal events this December.
Winter Garden Market at St. Regis Dubai (28th November to 26th December)
There is one ultra-luxurious hotel in Dubai that is going the extra mile to make this Christmas extra special for guests and visitors as it turns its gardens into a holiday-themed wonderland for most of December. Full of yuletide decorations, carol singers, tinsel adornments and bright lights, the Winter Garden Market guarantees fun for the whole family with stalls selling a variety of goods, from seasonal bites to gifts and arts and crafts. To top that up there will be a full programme of children´s activities and entertainment starting 3rd December, the same day when the massive St. Regis´ Christmas trees will be lit up as part of a wintry ceremony that kicks off at 6 p.m.
Festive Season at the Irish Village (4th to 25th December)
Honouring its Irish roots, this December The Irish Village in Dubai is diving head first into the festive Christmas season with a line-up of festive activities held throughout the month. It all kicks off on 4th December with the lighting of their massive Christmas tree, a ceremony that includes a carol-singing choir, mince pies and festive jumper parades with a prize for the best Christmas woolly – entry for two at the Irish Village’s swinging New Year’s Eve party.
Then on 13th December the official countdown to Christmas begins and to celebrate the pub will start serving up traditional three-course festive menus with all the trimmings, available daily from 12 p.m. to 11 p.m. and priced at 150 AED per diner. On 24th December, the real Christmas Eve party begins with free entry for all and all-night dancing to the tunes of resident DJ, Marky Mark. The following day, a festive buffet will be served for all the family to enjoy, with live music and an appearance from the man in red himself – Mr Santa Claus, who will be handing gifts to little ones. The Christmas lunch will be priced at 199 AED per adult or 99 AED for kids under 12 and will be served between 12 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Dubai Winter Festival (6th to 9th November)
Now in its sixth edition due to popular acclaim, this year, the Dubai Media City Amphitheatre is once again turning white to recreate that magical aspect of a wintry Christmas night. With a fully packed calendar of events spread out over four days to welcome the jolliest of seasons, the second weekend in December will be filled with all manner of themed seasonal festivities. There´ll be a funfair, a tree-lighting ceremony and the quintessential Santa´s Grotto where kids get to know the white-bearded man in the flesh and personally deliver their letters while sharing whether they´ve been good or bad this year.
Beyond meeting Father Christmas little ones will also be able to check out the 15-metre snow slide, a brand new edition to this year´s festival. If that weren´t thrilling enough, they can also throw snowballs and make snow angels at the Haribo Snow Play Zone while parents shop around for bargains at the Winter Market or participate in Dubai´s largest quiz, to be held on 6th December at 9 p.m.
There will be live entertainment guaranteed on the main stage with a variety of cheerful performances from choirs and dancers as well as the hosting of a talent show for kids – Dubai Media City is the place for families to be on 6th and 9th December from 4 to 10 p.m. and on 7th and 8th December from 3 to 10 p.m.
Harry Potter in Concert (7th to 9th December)
A very special musical performance is coming to Dubai just as the Christmas festive period kicks into gear, adding an extra dose of spirited cheer to the festivities. Harry Potter fans in Dubai this month will be able to fully immerse in the magic of J.K. Rowling’s beloved children’s book series as the first movie adaptation of the popular books is projected on a 40-foot, high-definition screen while the Czech National Symphony Orchestra provides the live soundtrack to an enraptured audience at the Dubai Opera. Set to visit over 35 countries around the world next year, the Harry Potter Film Concert Series is a unique show lasting two-and-a-half hours with a 20-minute intermission and captivating families of all ages (though it must that the performance is restricted to kids aged over 2). Ticket start at 175 AED (around £35) and performances are scheduled at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. over three consecutive days.
Elton John Live (8th December)
Adding even more cheer to the festive season, none other than legendary Sir Elton John himself is heading to Dubai early on in the month to delight audiences with his “Wonderful Crazy Night Tour” taking over the Autism Rocks Arena stage for one night only. The multiple award-winning pianist, singer and songwriter with a long and fruitful career that has seen him scoop up 38 gold and 27 platinum albums along with an endless list of awards, will return to Dubai to wow loyal fans from a variety of generations. Admission is at 9:30 p.m. and ticket prices range between 295 AED to 1,195 AED. You can purchase yours from 117live.com.
Jingle Bells Favourites (14th to 16th December)
A festive production comes to the Dubai Opera stage so that audiences get to enjoy seasonal Christmas favourites in the form of traditional carols, sang by star soloists from London’s West End; Matt Little and Alison Jiear. An evocative night of joy and jolliness will evoke your fondest, fuzziest Christmas memories as you listen to classics like “All I want for Christmas”, “Jingle Bell Rock”, “Santa Claus is coming to town” and “It’s the most wonderful time of the year”. The London Concert Orchestra Show Band will accompany all the singing in a festive jamboree that is sure to become one of the highlights of this year’s Christmas season. Performances are at 8 p.m. on 14th December, 3 and 8 p.m. on 15th December and 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on 16th December with tickets starting from 125 AED (around £25).
Dubai Shopping Festival 2018 (26th December to 27th January)
One of the biggest annual events in the Dubai calendar, the DSF (abbreviation for the Dubai Shopping Festival) returns to Dubai with a big bang. Turning the emirate into an even more amazing shopper’s paradise, this big spender festival will see markets pop up everywhere, malls offer incredible discounts and special deals while new experience venues are set up to promote and launch special products. Daily competitions and prizes are also part of this mega fair, with residents and tourists alike having numerous chances to get their hands on exclusive furniture, toys, fashion items, jewellery, dining offers and vehicles. The most immersive retail experience you could ever wish for, it all kicks off on Boxing Day, aptly putting the golden brooch to the end of the festive holiday season.
New Year´s Eve parties (31st December)
There are many places in Dubai celebrating the end of the new year and the welcoming of another with a big bang, so the list of places going all out for New Year’s Eve is virtually endless. Hence, the need to make a selection of the top venues in which to party into the wee hours of the morning. There’ll be a firework display lighting up the entire Palm Jumeirah, Downtown Dubai and surrounding areas, so wherever you are you’ll be able to enjoy the lights. Numerous restaurants and hotels also offer a wide variety of New Year’s Eve packages, so you’ll be truly spoilt for choice in terms of budget and locations. Here is my top pick on where to ring in the new year in Dubai:
New Year’s Eve at Soho Garden
Celebrating its existence as one of Dubai’s newest nightlife venues, Soho Garden is throwing a big party to welcome the new year in style with their first ever New Year’s Eve bash. The perfect place to do the official new year countdown while enjoying uninterrupted views of the city’s glittering skyline and enjoying prime views of the fireworks, the party will move to the sound of French house DJ Klingande accompanied by a live band. Expect to enjoy electrifying rhythms like his famous “Jubel” along with other his like “Pumped Up” and “Losing U”. The party rages on from 7 p.m.
New Year’s Eve Party at the Irish Village
With live music from the resident band, The Maplejacks, as well as a stellar performance from DJ Marky Mark, The Irish Village will be welcoming the new year with a lively party, and definitely Irish festive mood. Guests must be aged 21 and over, doors open at 7 p.m. and tickets are priced at 125 AED (£25), including two selected beverages.
Dubai Opera New Year’s Eve Gala
With a perfect location at the heart of Downtown Dubai, the opulent beauty of the Dubai Opera make it a swanky place in which to welcome 2018 in style. Guests can tuck into unlimited canapes and beverages while enjoying the uplifting sounds of the London Concert Orchestra, joined by soloists Jesus Leon Rendon and Iona Domnich and performing classics like Nessum Dorma, Blue Danube and Pomp & Circumstance. After such a serenade you’ll be invited to sit for a full dinner before taking to the dancefloor and dancing the night away to the beats mixed by a live DJ. It all comes at a price though, with packages starting at a hefty 2,500 AED (£507) and going all the way up to 3,500 AED (£710).
Jason Manford Live in Dubai
For a bit of comedy to welcome the new year in a happy, jolly, all-smiling and roaring with laughter mood, the Grand Millennium Hotel is the place to be. Performing brand new material, British stand-up comedian Jason Manford returns to Dubai for one night only to help audiences ease into the new year with a smile on their face. After his act is over, DJ Gail will take over the decks to keep the party going at The Laughter Factory until after midnight. The venue’s rooftop terrace is also ideal for watching the firework displays.
There will be several DJ performances setting the mood for New Year’s Eve in Dubai. My top recommendations are Basement Jaxx, Judge Jules and Jax Jones and Sigma. While the British duo Basement Jaxx, famous for electronic tunes like “Where’s your head at” or “Red Alert” will be live at Inner City Zoo, Judge Jules will be performing at Q43 in Media One Hotel where you’ll also be able to select from a variety of packages for the night, including a four-course dinner menu or a VIP table closer to the dancefloor. Last but not least, yet another British duo, Jax Jones and Sigma will be mixing the sounds to the new year at Zero Gravity, the award-winning nightclub adjacent to SkyDive Dubai. Tickets to attend these raving New Year’s Eve DJ parties vary in price and range from 399 AED (£81) to 999 AED (£203).
If you want to escape the Christmas cheer or find an alternative celebration that has nothing to do with Santa, reindeers and snowmen, then this is the section to tickle your fancy. Here I´ve put together a selection of totally unrelated December events that are all about the party vibe and none about the Christmas spirit or joy (at least in principle).
Sole DXB (7th to 9th December)
An event that, as its name indicates was primarily created to showcase footwear for your soles, has evolved from celebrating trainers to include a much wider scope of urban elements, from art and music to food and fashion. This year, the festival is dedicated to Japanese design and over its three-day duration there´ll be sports contests and sportwear presentations from the likes of Reebok, Nike, Visvim and more with a variety of product launches and special deals to be enjoyed all weekend long.
To round it all up there will be a fabulous musical line-up of artists that include American rapper Pusha T, German rapper Serious Klein and UK grime star Kano. After-parties will get going to the sounds of DJ Stretch Armstrong, DJ Shortkut and PATTA Soundsystem. The chosen venue for this street art mega feast is D3 and admission costs 125 AED (around £25).
Art Fusion Night (7th December)
More art comes to Dubai this December in the form of a party-style celebration showcasing UAE’s creative community. With an impressive line-up of comedians, designers, artists and singers, guests are treated to live painting demonstrations and fine art exhibitions – all perfectly complimented by live music from local DJs, performing arts acts, fashion exhibits and stand-up comedy. It’s on at Nikki Prive from 10 p.m. onwards and for one night only. Entry costs 150 AED (£30).
Fiesta Musica at Zero Gravity (7th to 9th December)
Hosting its biggest ever music festival, Zero Gravity – the fabulous beach club next to SkyDive) will treat guests to a spectacular week-long festival that includes all-day performances from international artists like British DJ Trevor Nelson, the Ibiza House Orchestra and Australian DJ Throttle. While enjoying some good tunes you can also try out water sports like stand-up paddleboarding or get yourself covered in UV paint and glitter in the Arts & Crafts Area. Alternatively, you can relax at the Chill Out zone with a good drink in hand. Admission is priced between 100 AED (£20) and 400 AED (£81).
Santa´s Invitation (3rd to 9th December)
How much do you think your kids would love to help Santa out in his Christmas rush for delivering presents? Well, this month he´s making a stop in Dubai and is in dire need of extra elves to make gifts for well-behaved children. Could your child be one of his little helpers? All you need to do is dress them in their best elf costume and take them to DUCTAC (Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre) to join in a heart-warming show. Santa will interact with the audience and make everyone smile as he and his team of snowmen, snowflakes and reindeers fill the atmosphere with holiday cheer. Tickets are priced at 130 AED (around £26) and there are daily performances at 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.
Family Fun Day (15th December)
Promising a fun-filled day out for the entire family , this fabulous event which is completely free for all to attend, is all for a good case, as it promotes awareness of the integration of children with special needs in the UAE. After all, 2017 was declared the Year of Giving. And in this spirit, with the collaboration of Dubai Police and Dubai Municipality, sponsored by H.H Sheikh Mansoor Bin Mohamed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, a great deal of activities aimed at children will unfold. With a bouncy castle, a photography corner and a cinema, there will be plenty to keep youngsters entertained, including dedicated classes for kids and adults alike, from face painting to arts and crafts, football and yoga. It’s one from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Zabeel Park, Gate 1.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (20th to 29th December)
The aptly named Snow White is coming down to Dubai in time for the festive season and in the good company of her seven little friends. Captivating young audiences of all ages, this classic fairy tale will come to life at DUCTAC (Dubai Community Theatre & Arts Centre) for nine days of twice and thrice-daily performances. Put on stage by a cast of professional actors, a young choir group and a technical team from the UK, this production will be loved by kids and parents alike, with a jolly mix of dancing and singing. Time is of the essence when booking tickets though, as is expected that a show as popular as this will sell out fast. Time slots to choose from are: 11 a.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m., 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. and these vary according to the different dates. Tickets can be purchased online at ductac.etixdubai.com/shows and are very reasonably priced between 85 AED (£17) and 153 AED (£31).
*Please note that all currency conversions given on this post are estimates calculated at the time of writing and subject to daily fluctuation.