Popular Abu Dhabi Shore Excursions
Ferrari World Theme Park: Located on Abu Dhabi's Yas Island is the Ferrari World theme park, a must for any F1 fans -- or just people curious for a peek into the world of high-speed car racing. Dubbed The "world's biggest indoor theme park," the park offers a wide range of Ferrari-themed rides and displays meant for both adults and kids, including the chance to drive an F1 simulator or to ride the Formula Rossa roller coaster (the world's fastest) or to experience race-day acceleration in the G Force "tower of speed." For kids, the junior grand prix (which comes with private driving lessons for the little ones) and the speed of magic (a 4D fantasy universe) are top contenders for the little ones. Beyond the theme parks, there's ample shopping and dining too, like the Italian Ristorante Cavallino or the more laid-back Officer's Quarters (complete with french fries, burgers and pizzas). (Yas Island; +971 2 496 8000; open daily, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.)
Abu Dhabi Pearl Experience: One of Arabia's most time-honored traditions, the Pearl Journey takes visitors on a jalboot -- a traditional pearling vessel -- and guides them on a leisurely cruise along the channel between Abu Dhabi and the Hudairi Yat Islands. In addition to enjoying date desserts and traditional Arabian tea, you get the chance to learn all about the ancient art of pearling from generations of Emiratis. It's not all just talk, though, you also learn the traditional way of opening a living, natural oyster and receive a souvenir pearl. There are a few different outfitters who do this, but the Abu Dhabi Tourism Bureau recommends A Pearl Journey. On some of the journeys, a tour of the unique mangrove system is also included. (P.O. Box 75858; +971 2 641 9914; open daily, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.)
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque: One of the most recognizable landmarks in the entire city is the snowy-white mass of domes and minarets that make up the breathtaking Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, which is visible for miles around and provides a spectacular symbol of Islamic pride at the entrance to the capital of the United Arab Emirates. The mosque, which was built in 2007, features 82 domes, more than 1,000 columns, 24-carat gold gilded chandeliers and the world's largest hand-knotted carpets. Most of the mosque is open to the public, however, some areas are reserved only for the locals. The main prayer hall, which is decked out with large chandeliers that measure 10 x 14 meters, is flanked with stunning reflective pools. To enter, women have to cover their legs, arms and heads and, if you don't come prepared, you can easily rent a hijab. If you'd prefer, you can join the mosque's free 60-minute tour. The mosque's first ceremony was the funeral of its namesake, Sheikh Zayed, who is buried at the site. One of the best times to visit isn't the morning or afternoon, it's during sunset -- where the pinks, purples and oranges of the setting sun reflect in the pools to create an incredibly stunning image worthy of many Instagram shots. (Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Street, 5th Street; +971 2 4191919; open Monday to Thursday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Fridays, 4:30 to 9:30 p.m.)
Emirates Palace Hotel: One of the most iconic landmarks in the city, Emirates Palace is the ultimate place to see and be seen. This luxurious, five-star hotel blends Arabian splendor with impressive landscaping -- boasting a private white sand beach outfitted with cabanas and a stunning fountain display overlooking Etihad Towers. During the day, the golden-sandy color contrasts against the lush green gardens. However, at night, the light changes -- thanks to a rainbow-changing display dancing over the fountains. Featuring 114 domes, gold and mother of pearl decorations, there are ample places to grab a bite (like the Sayad Seafood House or the award-winning La Vendome buffet restaurant) or shop. The entrance features two handmade wall display carpets that weigh more than a ton and portray the palace in sparkling light. (West Corniche Road, Ras Al Akhdar; +971 2 690 9000)
Yas Island: One of the most popular entertainment districts in the UAE is Yas Island, which is home to an array of restaurants, landmarks, malls and theme parks. One of the biggest landmarks is the Yas Marina Circuit, which is the annual home for the Etihad Airways Grand Prix. During the day, you can enjoy a private driving tour or a passenger experience -- both of which give you the chance to get in a Formula One race car. Along with this, the island is home to the Ferrari Theme Park. Besides Formula One, Yas Island also has Yas Waterworld, which spans an area of around 15 football pitches, with 43 rides, slides and attractions -- five of which are one-of-a-kind; Yas Links Abu Dhabi -- an award-winning golf course, designed by Kyle Phillips, one of the world's leading golf course architects -- is in line with the traditional links golf commonly associated with the coastal towns of Scotland and Ireland; and Yas Beach, the island's only stretch of public beach. For shopping, Yas Mall is the UAE's second largest shopping center and offers hundreds of stores, restaurants, spas and entertainment options for just about anyone.
Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital: Take a guided tour of the specialty hospital treating the royal bird. See the luxurious wards where the birds are kept; visit the museum to learn more about the sport of falconry and a free-flying area to see falcons soar; and try your hand at the sport in the garden. The hospital is in the Al Raha district near Abu Dhabi International Airport. (P.O. Box: 45553; Sunday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.)
Golfing: Several courses are located within a half-hour of the central city. Among them are the nine-hole Abu Dhabi City Golf Club on 19th Street in the Al Mushrif district; Abu Dhabi Golf Club, home to a 27-hole championship course on Umm Al Nar Street in the Umm Al Nar district; Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, an 18-hole ocean course designed by Gary Player with several beachfront holes, on Saadiyat Island; and Yas Links Abu Dhabi, an 18-hole links course and nine-hole academy course on the Western shores of Yas Island.
Situated on the Arabian Gulf, so many of Abu Dhabi's beaches boast soft, white sand and stunning views of the sparkling gulf. Most of the top hotels feature private beaches, but there are also plenty of public beaches, too.
Yas Beach: Located on Yas Island, Yas Beach is open to all guests who are staying at any of Yas Island's seven hotels. For non-hotel guests, there's a small fee to rent a beach towel and a sun lounger.
Saadiyat Beach: Touting not only beachfront access but an infinity pool as well, Saadiyat Beach happens to be one of Abu Dhabi's most popular. A pass to use the facilities includes access to the pool, beach, cabana use and the sauna and gym. (+971-2656-3500; open daily, 9 a.m. to sunset)
Corniche Beach: This beach stretches for miles along the Gulf, offering one of a kind views of Abu Dhabi's iconic skyline. The breathtaking beachfront has been awarded Blue Flag status, which means it's been internationally recognized as being eco-friendly. There are about 1,100 free parking spaces and entry to the beach is also free -- which also means it's going to have the most crowds on weekends.