West Bay from the other side of the Corniche
West Bay from the other side of the Corniche

Doha vs. Dubai: Which Is the Better Family Vacation Spot?

Planning an unforgettable family vacation or a delightful stopover on the Arabian Peninsula, and you’re torn between Doha and Dubai as your ideal family-friendly destination? We’ve got you covered! In this article, we compare the two cities, diving into the most exciting activities, dining experiences, the vibe, the climate, getting there, and getting around with your family.

Table of Contents

    What to Do and See With Your Family

    Family fun in and around Doha

    An up-and-coming destination in the Middle East, Doha is the capital city of Qatar and offers visitors a blend of traditional Middle Eastern culture and modern, luxurious amenities. Here is what you can do with your family in Doha:

    • Explore kids-friendly museums with your kids in Qatar, including the National Museum of Qatar and OliOli. The National Museum offers interactive exhibits and activities for all ages, featuring six educational areas and the Cave of Wonders, where children can explore a realistic underground cave. OliOli, an interactive play museum in Katara Cultural Village, is designed for families with children up to age 10. It offers hands-on activities and play areas across eight zones, fostering creativity, curiosity, and imagination, with over 40 interactive exhibits to engage both parents and kids.
    National Museum of Qatar
    The beautiful architecture of the National Museum of Qatar
    • Go on a desert safari: Imagine hopping into a 4×4 vehicle, cruising on a dune buggy, or even riding a camel as you explore the endless desert terrain of Qatar with your loved ones. With friendly tour operators guiding your way, you’ll visit authentic Bedouin camps, marvel at impressive falconry displays, and dive into the region’s ancient customs and practices. This one-of-a-kind experience promises not only cherished memories but also a newfound appreciation for Qatar’s rich history and vibrant culture.
    • Check out the water parks and theme parks: Be sure to add some fun in the sun to your itinerary by checking out the water parks and theme parks. With exciting rides and attractions for all ages, Desert Falls Water & Adventure Park is perfect for aquatic adventurers and thrill seekers. You can also head to Quest, a colorful, over-the-top indoor theme park with roller coasters, 3D experiences, and carnival games. Around Aspire Zone, you’ll find two other theme parks. Gondolania, housed in Villaggio Mall features an Olympic-sized ice-skating rink, Venice-inspired gondola boat rides, and attractions for all ages. KidZania, designed for children under 14, offers a unique experience with over 67 real-life job roles and 87 activities in 45 branded establishments, blending learning and entertainment to encourage skill development and career aspirations. Finally, the Museum of Illusions features interactive illusions and mind-bending displays which will mesmerize kids.
    Kidzania Doha - Fun things to do with kids in Doha
    Kidzania Doha, a place where kids can stretch their imagination
    • Explore the scenic coastline: Head to Katara Beach, located right in Doha, for a perfect day of swimming and lounging on the sand with plenty of food options nearby. For a luxurious tropical escape, try Banana Island, just a 25-minute boat ride away from the city. If you are feeling more adventurous, you can try kitesurfing at Fuwairit Beach or scuba-diving at Sealine Beach. Finally, don’t miss Khor Al Adaid, the spectacular “Inland Sea” on the border between Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
    • Visit the Souq Waqif: Step into a maze of mud-rendered shops and exposed timber beams to be transported back to a 19th-century souq filled with fascinating treasures, from antique daggers to traditional robes called thobes. Sample local delicacies at one of Souq Waqif’s top restaurants and sip on cardamom tea while experiencing the sights, sounds, and smells of the bustling marketplace. Be sure to take your kids out to the Falcon Souq, too, where they can witness a display of majestic birds, and to the nearby stables, where they can admire Arabian horses and camels.
    Camels stable in Souq Waqif, Doha
    Camels stable in Souq Waqif, Doha
    • Take a stroll along the Corniche or in one of Doha’s parks: The Corniche is waterfront promenade that offers stunning views of Doha’s skyline. Families can enjoy a leisurely walk or bike ride, stop for a picnic, and take in the sights of the city on this promenade. Alternatively, Doha features many parks to walk around, such as Al Bidda Park, Oxygen Park, and Aspire Park, the largest park in Doha at 88 hectares featuring a picturesque lake.
    Dhow boats along the Corniche in Doha
    Dhow boats along the Corniche in Doha
    • Experience Qatari culture and history: With stunning architecture and beautiful surroundings, the Katara Cultural Village is dedicated to preserving and showcasing Qatari heritage, art, and culture. There are plenty of activities for visitors of all ages, from art galleries and shopping to a 5,000-seat amphitheater and a planetarium. And if you have time, don’t miss Qatar’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Al Zubarah Archaeological Site, featuring the restored Al Zubarah Fort and displays showcasing the history and pearling heritage of the once-thriving port town, located 62 miles (100 kilometers) northwest of Doha.
    The entrance of Katara Amphitheatre
    The entrance of Katara amphitheatre
    • Visit Panda House: meet Suhail and Thuraya, the adorable giant pandas gifted from China to Al Khor’s Panda House, the first Panda park to open in the Middle East. Your children can learn more about these fascinating creatures in the Education Room, which features coloring and face painting activities. Don’t miss the viewing deck with glass windows and a balcony to get a closer look at the pandas. While you’re there, enjoy a meal at one of the multiple food kiosks, visit the Panda House Café, or shop for souvenirs at the gift shop. While you’re in Al Khor, you may also visit Al Khor Family Park, where your kids can discover giraffes, bears, rhinos and monkeys.

    Family fun in Dubai

    Now let’s talk about Dubai, the city of superlatives! You might know Dubai for its towering skyscrapers and high-end shopping, but it also has a lot to offer for families. Check out some of the best activities:

    Atlantis, The Palm, Dubai
    Photo by Aldo Loya on Unsplash
    • Visit Dubai Parks and Resorts: Dubai Parks and Resorts encompasses four different parks, including Legoland Dubai and Motiongate Dubai, that cater to families, with endless entertainment options. Meanwhile, Legoland Water Park is perfect for families with little ones, while Wild Wadi Waterpark has something for everyone, from toddlers to hardcore thrill seekers. For adrenaline junkies, IMG Worlds of Adventure is the best theme park, while Bollywood Parks is also full of high-octane rides. Meanwhile, Ain Dubai has a Ferris wheel bigger than the London Eye, and Atlantis Aquaventure Waterpark, the world’s largest water park, is an impressive attraction for families with young children—the top pick for thrill seekers with its innovative and wicked rides.

    No time to read?

    Pin it on Pinterest and revisit it later.

    • Step into the future: Dubai’s skyline is like a scene from a futuristic movie, with incredible high-rises that will leave you and your family in awe. It’s impossible to miss the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, standing at a jaw-dropping 2,715 feet (828 meters). Take an elevator to the 124th or 148th floors to get a bird’s-eye view of the city, or grab a bite to eat at the restaurant-bar on the 122nd floor. Afterward, head over to Dubai Marina, a pedestrian paradise, and stroll along the marina’s boardwalk, where you can spot some fancy yachts and check out the futuristic skyscrapers. And be sure to visit Palm Jumeirah, an artificial island that’s shaped like a palm tree and features many luxurious hotels and residences.
    • Head to the beach: Dubai’s coastline boasts pristine white-sand beaches that are perfect for a day of sun, sea, and sand. Jumeirah Beach, one of the most popular beaches in Dubai, features crystal-clear waters and soft golden sand. Kite Beach, located just a short walk away, is a paradise for water sports enthusiasts with renowned kitesurfing conditions. Both beaches have plenty of facilities, including showers, changing rooms, and cafes. In addition to swimming and sunbathing, visitors can enjoy a range of water sports, including jet skiing, parasailing, and even paddle boarding.
    Dubai beach
    Atlantis, The Palm, Dubai © Carlos Lindner / Unsplash
    • Visit the Dubai Miracle Garden: Step into a surreal world of more than 100 million flowers covering 2,000 square meters—the world’s largest natural flower garden. The Dubai Miracle Garden is a floral paradise that will take your breath away. Walk through the garden to be transported to an Alice in Wonderland-like scene with quirky peacocks, clocks, and castles that make for a supremely colorful backdrop for family photo ops. Next, take a break from your stroll to relax in one of the cabanas to enjoy the serene surroundings. While you’re there, don’t miss the adjacent Dubai Butterfly Garden, a magical nine-dome wonderland filled with thousands of multihued butterflies.
    Photo by Ali Raoufian on Unsplash
    • Explore the Dubai Mall: The Dubai Mall is a must-visit for families who love shopping and entertainment. This massive mall is not just a shopping destination but an entire city in itself with about 1,300 shops, making it the largest shopping mall in the world. Though it’s not just shopping that makes it an exciting place to be. There’s also an indoor theme park, a large ice rink, and an aquarium. Kids will love the dinosaur skeleton and a chance to explore an underwater world. Parents can indulge in luxury shopping at plenty of European-label stores and the famous Galeries Lafayette department store. With more than 150 food outlets, there’s also something to suit everyone’s taste buds.
    • Ski Dubai: If your family is up for some winter fun in the desert country of Dubai, they needn’t look any further than Ski Dubai! This indoor ski resort is part of the Mall of the Emirates, another one of the largest shopping malls in the world, which boasts a 22,500- square-meter indoor ski area. The park maintains a chilly temperature of -1 degree to +2 degrees Celsius throughout the year, making it an optimal way to escape Dubai’s heat. You and your family can ski, snowboard, or even go tobogganing in the real snow, creating memories that will last a lifetime. And if you need some gear or instruction, Ski Dubai has you covered. It’s a unique and exciting way to cool off and have fun!

    Doha and Dubai are equally fine family vacation destinations: In the end, it all comes down to what your family is after when choosing between Doha and Dubai. Dubai offers a modern and luxurious experience with lots of entertainment options for kids. Doha is great if you’re looking for a mix of traditional Middle Eastern culture and modern amenities, not to mention outdoor activities and natural landscapes to explore. That’s what makes it one of the most underrated family-friendly destinations.


    When planning a family vacation in Doha or Dubai, it’s crucial to take into account the climate of these destinations.

    Weather in Doha

    According to Climate-Data.org, Doha has an average temperature of 17.7°C (31.8°F), with the hottest period in June, July, and August, and the coldest period in December, January, and February. This is often seen as the best time to visit Qatar. December has the highest relative humidity at 67 percent, while June has the lowest relative humidity at 38 percent. January is the rainiest month – this is relative, it doesn’t rain much in Qatar -, while June has the fewest rainy days.

    Weather in Dubai

    The same weather data site shows that Dubai has a similar average temperature of 16.2°C (29.2°F), with the same hottest and coldest months. December has the highest relative humidity at 61 percent, while May has the lowest relative humidity at 42 percent. January is the wettest month, while May has the least rainfall.

    Winter in Doha vs Dubai

    For an easy comparison between the two cities during their winter months, which are considered the best time to visit, here’s a table showing the average temperatures and number of rainy days from November to February:

    MonthDubai Avg. TemperatureDoha Avg. TemperatureDubai PrecipitationDoha Precipitation 
    November80 °F | 26.7 °C74 °F | 23.1 °C0.1 in | 3 mm0.3 | 7 mm
    December72 °F | 22.2 °C65 °F | 18.2 °C0.4 in | 10 mm0.6 | 15 mm
    January 69 °F | 20.6 °C62 °F | 16.9 °C0.7 in | 17 mm 0.5 | 12 mm
    February 70 °F | 21.1 °C66 °F | 18.8 °C0.6 | 15 mm0.5 | 12 mm

    Doha defeats Dubai for best weather: As the table shows, both cities have mild winter temperatures and low rainfall amounts, making them ideal for outdoor activities. However, Doha has slightly cooler temperatures during the winter months compared to Dubai. It’s important to keep in mind that while Dubai’s indoor attractions are perfect for escaping the heat, outdoor activities during the summer months are not as comfortable due to the scorching temperatures. On the other hand, Doha’s summer months tend to be humid but have lower temperatures, making it easier to explore the city outdoors.

    Eat, Drink, Doha, Dubai

    Dining in Doha

    From traditional Qatari food to fine dining options, there’s something for everyone in Doha. You can enjoy a variety of meats such as lamb, fish, and beef, all cooked with local spices and served with fresh bread, veggies, and hummus.

    A Turkish restaurant at Souq Waqif
    A Turkish restaurant at Souq Waqif

    And if you’re feeling fancy, Spice Market serves delicious Southeast Asian cuisine, and so does Nobu for exquisite Japanese cuisine.

    Nobu restaurant made-made peninsula at Four Seasons hotel in Doha, Qatar
    The world’s largest Nobu restaurant, at Four Seasons Hotel, Doha

    For an authentic Qatari dining experience, head to Al Hubara restaurant in the Sheraton hotel, which specializes in local seafood and other traditional dishes. You won’t be disappointed by the fresh, flavorful seafood and other delicious options on the menu. If you’re looking for a Middle Eastern restaurant with a modern twist, Yasmine Palace at the Pearl Qatar is a fine choice. Their fusion menu combines traditional Arabic dishes with flavors from around the world, resulting in a truly unique dining experience. And finally, if you’re in the mood for Persian cuisine, choose Parisa Souq Waqif, one of the top restaurants in Souq Waqif. This charming restaurant offers a range of delectable dishes, from lamb kebabs to chicken fesenjan.

    Signature appetizers at Parisa Souq Waqif
    A mix of cold and hot appetizers at Parisa Souq Waqif

    Doha also has a range of family-friendly restaurants for parents traveling with their little ones. Chef’s Garden appeals to those who prefer organic produce and farm-to-table fare. Parents can relax while their children have fun in the children’s area. Also featuring a separate kids’ area (with coloring books and TV cartoons) is Coral All Day Dining.

    Dining in Dubai

    Dubai is a paradise for food lovers! Visitors will notice that more and more incredible restaurants are popping up. Check out Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen at Caesars Palace, where you can hear all the drama that goes on in the kitchen while enjoying a robust Beef Wellington. If you want to try some traditional local dishes, head over to Aseelah to try some camel stew or Samak. And if you’re looking for a unique dining experience, you have to check out Sky Dive Dubai‘s “dinner in the sky” suspended 50 meters in the air! Even more elevated dining is found at Atmosphere, the world’s highest restaurant, perched on the 122nd floor of the Burj Khalifa. Celebrities including Mariah Carey and Eva Longoria have been spotted dining there. Czn Burak, which boasts of having the “world’s most delightful cuisine,” is known for its larger-than-life kebabs. Cristiano Ronaldo and Will Smith have stopped by to delight fellow diners. And if you want to rub shoulders with football (soccer) superstars like Lionel Messi and Paul Pogba, head to Nusr-Et at the Four Seasons, where chef and food entertainer Salt Bae himself may feed you a piece of meat directly from his knife!

    If you’re with your family, we’ve got some excellent spots for you. The Byron Bathers Club serves up fresh seafood and amazing breakfasts, while Phileas Fogg has a dedicated kids club and playground to keep the little ones entertained. For some British pub classics with a twist, head over to Reform Social and Grill or Pier 7. And if you’re feeling more adventurous, Wavehouse is the perfect spot for some family fun with bowling, arcade games, a soft play area, and a wave rider to entertain everyone. Finally, don’t forget to stop by Carluccio’s for some Italian cuisine with a view of the stunning Dubai Fountain and Burj Khalifa.

    Doha and Dubai are both fab for foodies: Both Doha and Dubai have amazing food scenes that showcase traditional dishes as well as top-quality international cuisine. If you want to dine like a celebrity, Dubai is definitely the place to be. And if you’re more into trying local dishes and experiencing traditional cuisine, then Doha is the clear winner.

    The Vibe

    What’s Doha like for families?

    Doha exudes a unique charm that sets it apart from Dubai. It’s a mix of tradition and modernity, where you can explore vibrant souks selling spices and traditional handicrafts while admiring the towering buildings and world-class museums. The best part? Doha is more compact than Dubai, making it easier to explore with your little ones. Take a leisurely stroll along the Corniche, stop for a picnic in one of the many parks, or visit the stunning Museum of Islamic Art—all in just one day!

    A view of the Museum of Islamic Art, from the nearby park
    A view of the Museum of Islamic Art, from the nearby park

    What’s Dubai like for families?

    Dubai is all about the glitz and glamour. It’s a city that never sleeps, with luxurious shopping malls, buzzing nightlife, and endless entertainment options. But don’t worry as there are plenty of family-friendly attractions like the Dubai Aquarium, KidZania, and IMG Worlds of Adventure, the world’s largest indoor theme park. Dubai also offers a range of outdoor activities such as desert safaris and water parks, perfect for those looking for some adventure.

    Too close to call: So, which one is better for families? It depends on what you’re looking for. If you want a more authentic Arabian experience with a focus on history and culture, Doha is the way to go. But if you’re after larger-than-life experiences, then Dubai is clearly the better choice.

    Getting around

    Getting around with the family in Doha or Dubai can be an adventure in itself—but a good adventure, not the kind of nightmare you might experience in other cities. Doha is a small and compact city, which makes it a breeze to navigate. The new metro system is super impressive, with clean, fancy air-conditioned stations and one of the fastest driverless trains in the world, which is one of the unique fun facts about Qatar. Trains run frequently, connecting all the top tourist spots, making it a great option for families who want to explore the city while feeling like a local. Otherwise, it’s easy to hop on a taxi, or better, order an Uber.

    Taxis in Doha

    Dubai, on the other hand, is a sprawling metropolis that can feel overwhelming at first. But don’t fret as Dubai’s public transport system is top-notch and will have you zipping around the city like a local in no time. The metro system is world-class and covers all the major tourist attractions. Plus, taxis are cheap and easy to come by, which works well for families traveling with kids. And for those families who want to take things at their own pace, renting a car is a fantastic option. The roads are well-maintained, and driving around is a breeze. Similarly, you can easily travel around the city by taxi, Uber, or Careem.

    In-country transportation is easy-peasy in both countries: Both Doha and Dubai make it very easy for families to travel around.

    Flights and Airports

    Both Doha and Dubai offer excellent service for air travelers as Qatar Airways and Emirates are two of the world’s top-rated airlines. However, there are some differences that may affect which city is better for a family vacation.

    Qatar Airways has the edge over Emirates as it was ranked as the world’s top airline in 2022 by Skytrax. Additionally, Qatar Airways has the QSuite, which provides a private family space for a group of four in Business Class. Emirates flies to slightly more destinations than Qatar Airways, but both airlines offer worldwide coverage, so it’s a draw in that regard.

    A Qatar Airways aircraft © Arkin Si / Unsplash

    As for the airports, Doha’s Hamad International Airport is ranked as the world’s second-best airport by Skytrax, while Dubai International Airport is not in the top 10. Whether you’re just popping in for a quick stopover or facing a long layover, you won’t be short on things to do at Doha’s International Airport.

    Doha’s airport is currently handling 30 million passengers per year, with plans to expand to accommodate more than 70 million passengers. Dubai’s airport currently handles 66 million passengers and is expected to welcome 78 million passengers in 2023, with about 60 percent as destination travelers.

    If you’re traveling on a stopover of four nights or fewer, Qatar Airways offers great deals on hotels in Dubai, with prices starting as low as $14 US for a four-star hotel or $77 US for a five-star luxury hotel. Dubai also offers city tours starting at $47 US for a one-day exploration of downtown Dubai. However, in terms of hotel deals, Doha seems to have more options than Dubai.

    Doha delivers: When it comes to flights and airports, Doha seems to have a slight edge over Dubai, with Qatar Airways rated as #1 airline and Doha International Airport ranked as the world’s second-best airport. Additionally, if you’re traveling on a stopover, Doha offers better deals on hotels than Dubai. Therefore, for families looking for a vacation spot with great flights and a stellar airport experience, Doha may be the better choice.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Is Qatar part of the UAE?

    Just to be clear, though Qatar is described as an emirate (a geographical entity ruled by an emir—English translation, “ruler”), it is an independent country and not part of the United Arab Emirates as Dubai is. Qatar is located on the northeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south and the Arabian Gulf to the north, east, and west.

    How far is Qatar from Dubai?

    If you’re planning a road trip from Dubai to Qatar, it’s going to take you more than six hours to reach the border, a long trip of about 530 kilometers (330 miles). But if you’re flying, the distance between Doha and Dubai is 393 kilometers (244 miles), which only takes about one hour and 15 minutes. Luckily, both Fly Dubai and Qatar Airways offer frequent flights between the cities.

    Can you take a boat from Dubai to Doha?

    Unfortunately, there’s currently no ferry service that can take you directly from Abu Dhabi or Dubai to Doha. However, you can rent a boat if you’re feeling adventurous!

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *