There are so many blog posts and articles out there detailing a stopover itinerary in Abu Dhabi; mostly suggesting an exhaustive list of activities that provide an adrenaline rush to the heart and wallet. For Travelynn Family, our stopover in Abu Dhabi with kids was all about taking a breather before the start of our new chapter in India. We wanted to relax (as much as you can with 2 little people!), reconnect after our crazy busy weeks of packing and goodbyes, and refocus our energies for the task ahead. Read about our move to India here. Abu Dhabi was our decompression zone.
Where we stayed
Accommodation in Abu Dhabi seems to be a lot more affordable than in its glitzier brother Dubai and we were able to find a good rate at the Sheraton. We’d been to Abu Dhabi a few times over the years (the first visit for Daddy Lynn in 1988! – check out the photo below) and back then the Sheraton took pride of place on the eastern edge of the Corniche but now it’s dwarfed by shinier, taller buildings which rise from the reclaimed land. In spite (or perhaps because) of this, we loved it and booked in for three nights in one of the Executive Double rooms.
The boys had been cooped up in a taxi/aeroplane/taxi combo for about twelve hours since leaving the UK, so they made a grand entrance to the Sheraton by performing pirouettes around the lobby area, much to the amusement of the friendly hotel staff. The room, was very smart and well-appointed and despite being on the small side, it had a massive (and extremely comfortable) double bed and a luxuriously large bathroom. It also came with a balcony (just about big enough for two people to sit on once the kids were asleep), complete with dazzling views of the city and Corniche.
But for Travelynn Family, what got us very excited about the Sheraton was the pool complex. It’s worth the room rate on its own; a fact confirmed by the numerous other families visiting as day-guests. It’s cleverly planned so that the non-family guests (requiring serenity, cocktails and super cool chill-out music – gah, we’re jealous!) are very separate from the family guests who are wizzing down the slide and splashing excitedly as Daddy Lynn pretends to be a crocodile. There is also a beach area for sandcastle building and a dip in the sea (although there’s a steep drop just one metre in, so keep hold of your little ones).
Abu Dhabi is quite spread out and, combined with the daytime heat, it means that most of the time you’ll need to use a taxi. However, a short walk from the Sheraton is the Corniche. A beautifully clean and wide stretch of footpath along the shoreline, free from traffic. A fantastic place to let the kids run free, whilst allowing parents a moment to admire the impressive skyline. There are lots of shaded spots under the palm trees to take a breather (take lots of water!) and even a couple of shaded playgrounds in the green parks alongside the Corniche.
From the Sheraton, you can follow the Corniche towards to the World Trade Centre Souk (a shiny new building on the site of the original souk which we remembered fondly from previous visits). We loved looking around the shops and buying some postcards to send back home (the first of many, no doubt). It’s just the right length walk in the heat for little legs and it’s easy to then flag down a taxi back to the Sheraton.
The real highlight of our sightseeing though was the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, a twenty minute taxi ride out of the city. The truly spectacular building is perhaps the one ‘must-do’ activity whilst you are here and you won’t be disappointed – the interior is mesmerising and the scale of the place is incredible. We were there in the morning when the sun was already high, but were able to avoid the worst of it by wandering around the marble building, marvelling at the pristine wonder of it all.
There are a plethora of fabulous restaurants to dine in and around Abu Dhabi. However for us, the cost of them often outweighs the stress of keeping the boys entertained whilst we attempt to look remotely civilised to onlookers. There are lots of little supermarkets around to purchase essential milk and snacks, as well as food stalls selling shawarmas and other fast foods.
During our stay, however, the Sheraton kindly provided a complimentary meal at one of their restaurants – the choice between Italian, Mexican and Tapas was difficult but we opted for El Sombrero (the Mexican, if you didn’t guess) and it turned out to be one of the best family dining experiences we can remember. From the moment we walked in, the staff were attentive and welcoming, giving special attention to the two boys. We even got a table-side visit from the head chef who spent time explaining the menu and recommending dishes for each of us. Suffice to say, we loved everything brought to the table, the food was delicious and we even enjoyed some margaritas (alcohol free lookalikes for the boys). The grown-ups could even relax for a few minutes whilst the boys played with the crayons and colouring pages supplied by the restaurant. A great experience, highly recommended.
Our stopover finished all too quickly and we were back in the taxi heading to the airport to catch our onward flight to India. Etihad are a great airline and Abu Dhabi is an even better stopover location with young kids. The next time you are going long-haul, we really recommend stopping over here. Both parents and kids will be fully refreshed and ready to tackle the onward flight, only this time with some brilliant memories to take back onboard with you.
We recommend reading up on these facts about visiting the UAE with kids from Our Globetrotters before you go.
We would like to thank the Sheraton Abu Dhabi for supporting this blog entry. However, these are all my own thoughts and words.