These are the hidden gems in Dubai for tourists looking to step off the beaten path. If you are looking for unique and unusual things to do in Dubai, you’re in the right place.
There’s no shortage of incredible places to see in Dubai. You clicked on this article, so we know you’re looking for more than just the average tourist attractions in Dubai. No matter if you’re a frequent visitor, first-timer, or local — you’ll find something that interests you in this collection of Dubai attractions. We’ve included some attractions in Dubai for kids, adults & solo travelers. We’ve also included some unconventional things to do near Dubai and Dubai nightlife secrets.
Table of Contents
- Hidden Gems in Dubai
- 1. Hot Air Ballooning
- 2. SMCCU
- 3. Al Qudra Lakes
- 4. Lost Chambers Aquarium
- 5. Fossil Dunes
- 6. Musandam Peninsula
- 7. Ski Dubai
- 8. Museum of Illusions
- 9. Dubai Butterfly Garden
- 10. Abra Ride
- 11. Jameel Arts Centre
- 12. Coffee Museum
- 13. Alserkal Avenue
- 14. Dinner in the Sky
- 15. Cafe Villa 515
- 16. La Perle
- 17. Al Qudra Cycle Path
Hidden Gems in Dubai
For more information on conventional tourist places in Dubai, view our Dubai Map with attraction. You may also check out some of the best hotels in Dubai if you need a place to stay. Finally, we recommend brushing up on UAE Fashion Etiquette to ensure a smooth and culturally respectful experience.
Hidden Gems in Dubai
Let’s jump right into it! These are the most unconventional indoor attractions in Dubai, the most unique night attractions in Dubai, and some off-the-beaten-path Dubai natural attractions. They are the top-secret Dubai attractions for tourists.
1. Hot Air Ballooning
By Veronika from Travel Geekery
The Arabian Desert can be considered one of the more popular Dubai tourist spots, and one of the most popular places to visit in Dubai. Although, hot air ballooning in the desert is one of the hidden gems. Dubai’s gorgeous desert scenery is unforgettable.
Flying in a hot air balloon is an amazing adventure. Add to it a beautiful sunrise in the desert, and you’re in store for a once in a lifetime memory! It may even be considered one of the crazy things to do in Dubai for thrill-seekers.
The desert landscape just outside of Dubai features surprisingly lush bush and camel farms. You may spot gazelles and Arabian oryx antelopes roaming freely. You can see all that from the balloon!
Ride a hot air balloon in Dubai.
Experience a stunning sunrise with another hot air balloon flying by in the background –this is one of the ultimate morning activities in Dubai. Witness the arrival of a new day in a basket several thousand feet above the ground. This Is one of the most unique experiences in any traveler’s life.
Flying in a hot air balloon in Dubai is another way to learn more about the Bedouin way of living. While you might get a few glimpses from up in the air, experiencing a post-flight breakfast in a Bedouin camp is a welcome add-on. Bedouins are also proficient at falconry, and a falcon showcase is often a part of the experience too.
The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding is one of the best tourist attractions in Dubai. It’s a non-profit organization dedicated to spreading awareness of UAE customs and traditions. Since Dubai is such a diverse city, full of expats and travelers, this organization aims to educate visitors and promote tolerance.
Experience an authentic Emirati meal.
The SMCCU should be on any Dubai sightseeing list. It’s located in the Al Fahidi Historical District. Their mantra is ‘Open doors, Open minds.’ The SMCCU engages the community with various experiences and events. The SMCCU is one of the lesser-known Dubai Main attractions.
You can sign up for a traditional meal, or enjoy a guided walking tour of the Al Fahidi Historical District.
3. Al Qudra Lakes
The Al Qudra Lakes region is only a 30-minute drive outside of downtown. It’s one of the natural wonders and hidden gems of Dubai, offering peace and tranquility. This desert oasis is the perfect place to discover wildlife.
You may spot foxes, oryx, or birds. There are over 170 different bird species that inhabit this region. You’ll spot everything from swans to flamingos in the Al Quadra Lakes region. This is one of the most quiet places in Dubai, a perfect break from the busy city.
Bab Al Shams is a 5-star luxury resort in this region. It’s one of the places of interest in Dubai. So, enjoy dinner at the resort or check out nearby food trucks for a more relaxed experience.
Find out more about the ❤️ shaped lakes.
Book a sunrise desert safari at Al Qudra.
The Al Qudra Lakes are man-made, but they blend so seamlessly into the desert scenery that you’d never know it! Neither do the animals. If you’re looking for eco-tourism, this is the best tourist spot in Dubai.
4. Lost Chambers Aquarium
You’ve likely heard a lot about the Dubai Mall’s famous aquarium, but have you heard about the Lost Chambers Aquarium? The Lost Chambers Aquarium is one of the best Dubai secrets.
The Lost Chambers Aquarium is one of the top tourist attractions in Dubai’s Atlantis Hotel. It’s the largest aquarium in the UAE. There are over 65,000 marine animals in the Ambassador Lagoon. Visiting here is one of the top activities to do in Dubai off the beaten track. It’s also one of the best places to visit in Dubai with family.
The Lost Chambers Aquarium is one of the most scenic places in Dubai with its vibrant fish, sharks, rays, and much more! Enjoy unforgettable experiences like snorkeling, underwater yoga, or scuba diving.
Snorkel at the Lost Chambers Aquarium.
Snorkeling is the most accessible experience since you won’t need to be dive certified. Also, it’s acceptable for all ages. There’s no other snorkeling experience like this one – you’ll be guaranteed to see hundreds of different marine species in a single swim.
5. Fossil Dunes
The Fossil Dunes at Al Wathba are one of the best places to visit in Dubai for free, and one of the low-key gems. You can get there in a 90-minute drive from the city center, but you will need a 4×4 vehicle. Getting lost in the desert is one of the fun things to do around Dubai anyway.
Check out the ultimate Fossil Dunes experience.
The Fossil dunes of Al Wathba are one of the best natural places to visit in Dubai. They are scenic formations in the desert landscape formed by sand and wind over time. The abstract structures form when calcium carbonate starts to harden. They continue to evolve over the decades.
Some of the most beautiful scenery of Dubai can be found at the Fossil Dunes. You may recognize them from the opening scenes of ‘Star Wars: A Force Awakens.’ These stunning natural creations are one of the most interesting historical places in Dubai.
6. Musandam Peninsula
One of the cool places to go in Dubai is the Musandam Peninsula – the way you get there is a day cruise. The experience is tranquil and relaxing, the views are awe-inspiring.
The Musandam Peninsula is located at the Northeast corner of the Arabian Peninsula. It’s between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. This area is exceptionally beautiful because of the Hajar Mountains. Photography places in Dubai don’t compare to this!
Sail away to the Musandam Peninsula.
As you cross into Oman, you’ll enjoy coastal and mountain views. Find out why they call this area the ‘Norway of Arabia.’ It’s one of the famous places in Dubai’s surroundings for natural beauty. You’ll even spot dolphins swimming around in these clear, green-blue waters.
During the excursion, you will stop at the remote Telegraph Island. You’ll have the opportunity to relax and snorkel. Buffet lunch is also provided.
7. Ski Dubai
By David from The Awesome Traveler Blog
Whenever you find time to visit Dubai, you’ll be glad you did. Dubai is full of breathtaking architecture and modern innovation. One of the most unique innovations, and one of the coolest attractions in Dubai for families, is Ski Dubai.
Ski Dubai takes you to an entirely different world, one with icy slopes and snow. Enjoy snow at Ski Dubai year-round while the temperature outside fluctuates. Ski Dubai is permanently chilling at 2 degrees celsius!
Book your experience at Ski Dubai.
The resort was opened in 2005 and has been on every list of attractions in Dubai since then. The unique magic of the place is unbelievable. It is a mind-blowing experience that showcases how art can mirror nature.
You will also come across penguins at the park. I mean, what’s snow without cute penguins? They are usually out at 2 pm, 4 pm, 6 pm, and 8 pm. If you watch penguins of Madagascar you’re definitely going to find yourself smiling at the little guys.
You can enjoy snowboarding and ski down the mountain, and take the chair lifts back up. These are state-of-the-art chairs that give you a bird’s eye view of the park). Equipment and warm weather wear is available for rent. This isn’t one of the Dubai free attractions, but it’s reasonably affordable and worth the hype.
8. Museum of Illusions
The Al Fahidi Historical District is one of the awesome places in Dubai for tourists. It’s a great place to walk through and get a taste of what Dubai was like 100 years ago. Much of the original infrastructure is preserved.
Walking through the Al Fahidi District isn’t one of the quirky things to do in Dubai, but it is where you’ll find one of the hidden gems. The Museum of Illusions Dubai is a fun place to visit. It’s a small museum with plenty of interactive, visually enchanting, and puzzling exhibits. There are also some pretty cool photo opportunities.
If you’re looking to explore Dubai off the beaten track, make sure to visit the Museum of Illusions. It’s one of the most interesting non-touristy things to do in Dubai.
9. Dubai Butterfly Garden
You’ve likely heard about the Dubai Miracle Garden, but have you heard about the Butterfly Garden? Dubai’s newest addition to our list of hidden gems. The Dubai Miracle Garden has a reputation for being one of the most beautiful places in Dubai to visit.
Visit the Dubai Butterfly Garden.
The Butterfly Garden is one of the cool places in Dubai where you can experience the magic of 15,000 butterflies! It’s an indoor garden made up of 10 domes. This is one of the Dubai gems because it’s the world’s largest butterfly garden.
While you walk around and enjoy the company of these enchanting creatures, you’ll also get to learn more about their lifecycle and ecology. There are also opportunities to take pictures with butterflies. It’s one of the best Dubai hidden places.
10. Abra Ride
By Roxanne from Far Away Worlds
The lively Dubai Creek separates Bur Dubai (the historic town) from Deira, Dubai’s city center. The creek is one of the secret places in Dubai, and it has been the lifeblood of the city for generations. It remains a major part of daily life in Dubai as well as one of the undiscovered places in Dubai.
Crossing the creek doesn’t take long, but it’s one of the top things to do in Old Dubai because it gives you an insight into a different side of Dubai – you won’t find tall buildings and flashy malls here.
The traditional-styled boats, known as abras cross the creek every few minutes, from early in the morning to late at night. The journey only takes less than 10 minutes, and it’s one of the cheap things to do in Dubai. Enjoy the cool wind against your face while you appreciate a new perspective of the city.
Each abra holds around 20 passengers who usually sit on a central wooden bench for the short journey across. In the mornings, the creek is busy with local traders and colorful wooden dhows on the water, and the occasional ship sailing past.
At any time of day, the creek is a wonderful vantage point to admire the remarkable views of old and new Dubai and take in the contrasts of the traditional houses, modern towers, and impressive minarets. Nearby, you’ll find the Gold and Spice Souk – classics on any Dubai attractions list.
11. Jameel Arts Centre
For those more artistically inclined, the Jameel Arts Centre is one of the brilliant unexplored places in Dubai. It is located on the Jaddaf Waterfront. The Jameel Arts Center has a spectacular collection of modern art.
Since opening in 2018, the center has become one of the leading modern art institutions of the UAE. It’s one of the best Dubai tourist places for art lovers.
The Jameel Arts Centre features innovative architecture, art galleries, community projects, and the Jaddaf Waterfront Sculpture Park. It’s one of the unique places to visit in Dubai, especially if you are yearning for some peace and quiet.
12. Coffee Museum
By Diana from the Globetrotting Detective
The Coffee Museum in Dubai is situated in the most historic part of Dubai. You’ll find this, and many other Dubai top attractions in the Al Fahidi historic neighborhood. It’s within the district Bur Dubai, on the western side of the Dubai Creek.
The Coffee Museum is very traditional inside and out. It’s one of the good places to visit in Dubai for a taste of culture and history. The museum is located inside a traditional Emirati house. Emirati culture is also reflected in the interior design of this museum.
In an authentic environment, you can experience how the locals have enjoyed coffee for centuries. It’s one of the best activities to do in Dubai off the beaten track.
The customer service is top-notch, the best of Dubai. The staff wears traditional Emirati attire. The atmosphere will make you feel like you are in a Middle Eastern tale. Learn about local and global coffee specialties – especially, Arabic, Ethiopian and Japanese coffee. You can also learn about how coffee is roasted, brewed, and consumed in different countries and cultures. This isn’t one of the most visited places in Dubai, but it provides the opportunity for a perfectly unique adventure.
13. Alserkal Avenue
Alserkal Avenue is one of the best attractions in Dubai, but tourists haven’t discovered it yet! It’s a cultural district in the Al Quoz industrial area. It’s one of the best hangout places in Dubai because it’s home to over 70 art galleries, designers, fashion houses, and performing art organizations.
Alserkal Avenue is Art Mecca in Dubai. Visiting this place is one of the must-do activities in Dubai. This cultural hub often hosts events and activities. You can explore galleries, go shopping, or enjoy fine dining or entertainment. There’s so much to explore at Alserkal Avenue, it’s no wonder this is one of the coolest tourist sites in Dubai.
14. Dinner in the Sky
Dinner in the Sky is one of the coolest hidden places in Dubai. It’s been listed in the top 10 World’s Most Unusual Restaurants by Forbes Magazine. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience unlike any other.
Dinner in the Sky is located at Skydive Dubai. It’s a table suspended 50-meters above the ground. It’s one of the most unusual hangout places in Dubai (and the world). At this insane venue, you can enjoy tea, lunch, or dinner.
See photos from Dinner in the Sky.
The Dinner in the Sky table can seat up to 22 people. Guests rave about the excellent service and delicious bites. It’s fine dining at one of the most breathtaking Dubai spots. The 3-course menu features 2 options for appetizer, main course, and dessert. Come find out why Dinner in the Sky is one of the unforgettable activities in Dubai.
15. Cafe Villa 515
Perfume has been an important part of the Arabian culture for centuries. It has been recorded to be in use on the peninsula since the 9th Century! Various herbs and plants were made into cosmetics, perfumes, and pharmaceuticals.
Shopping for perfume is one of the unusual things to do in Dubai, but it’s culturally relevant and rooted in history. Villa 515 is a one-of-a-kind perfume boutique. They specialize in niche perfumes and fashion brands.
Cafe Villa 515 in the Jumeirah neighborhood is one of the cool places in Dubai to stop for lunch.
Cafe Villa 515 has outdoor seating in a modern, garden oasis. Industrial and bohemian design elements converge to form the perfect ambiance. This is one of the interesting places to visit in Dubai. It’s the perfect place to enjoy brunch off the beaten path. Cafe Villa 515 serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
16. La Perle
La Perle is, without a doubt, the best entertainment in Dubai. Watching this phenomenal performance is one of the most fun things to do in Dubai off the beaten track. La Perle is Dubai’s first permanent show, and the venue is located in Dubai’s Al Habtoor City.
La Perle was created by Franco Dragone. Dragone is a legendary artistic director who’s most famous for his work at Cirque du Soleil. He’s theatrical style is distinct, but his signature work utilizes water, especially in staging. Dragone was huge in Vegas, and now his work has made it to Dubai!
The artistic and musical performances in La Perle are inspired by Dubai’s rich culture. State of the art technology was used to create the aqua stage with 270-degree seating — it’s one of the most beautiful spots in Dubai.
These are several restaurants — Le Patio, Zoco, Summer Place & more! Dinner and a show are some of the top activities to do in Dubai for couples.
17. Al Qudra Cycle Path
The Al Qudra Cycle Path is one of the cool places to go in Dubai for an awesome workout. The cycle path consists of 86 kilometers of track in the desert. It’s one of the best natural places to visit in Dubai for spotting wildlife.
You can stop by the Trek UAE bike shop to rent a bike. It’s located at the end of Al Qudra Road. The best time to visit is sunrise because you’ll be rewarded with phenomenal views, and you’ll enjoy cooler temperatures. The Al Qudra Cycle Path is about 30-minutes driving from downtown.
It’s not one of the top tourist attractions in Dubai, but it’s the perfect hidden gem for adventurers and fitness enthusiasts.