The United Arab Emirates once anticipated welcoming millions of visitors to a dazzling Dubai World Expo in 2020 but their dream was posponted due to the impact of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. The international exposition is now scheduled to take place Oct. 1, 2021 to Mar. 31, 2022.
The upcoming Expo (also known as a World’s Fair) will showcase the achievements of all nations and promote cultural exchange in Dubai, the UAE’s commercial center, and can also be seen by families visiting the neighboring emirate of Abu Dhabi.
Architectural icons such as the Eiffel Tower and Seattle Space Needle, and inventions such as the typewriter and ketchup, all came from past world expos. Although they were held more frequently at the turn of the last century, these days, World Expos are put on every five years and were last held in Shanghai in 2010 and Milan in 2015.
First Look: Dubai World Expo
The Expo’s theme is “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future” with three main areas dedicated to innovations in Opportunity, Sustainability and Mobility. The Sustainability Pavilion generates its own water and electricity and will feature developments in climate management and environmentally friendly food. The fully accessible Mobility zone will showcase e-bikes, shared scooters and new ways to get around never before imagined. The Dubai-built structures will be used in a new “knowledge community” business district dedicated to promoting startups and incubating forward-thinking companies.
The early press material and computer renderings promise a visual feast for architecture lovers, non-stop excitement for those who want to be entertained and jaw-dropping innovations to thrill the inventor in each of us.
After meeting the Dubai World Expo team at the New York Times Travel Show, representatives revealed more early details about this year’s don’t-miss family destination.
Dubai’s Rich Tourism Industry
Already the fourth most visited city in the world, according to government estimates, with 16.7 million visitors in 2019, Dubai was expecting millions of Dubai World Expo-goers between the original Dubai World Expo dates of October 20, 2020 to April 10, 2021, now postponed.
With a large supply of hotels in every price range, the city-state hopes to reach 164,000 available rooms by the Expo’s October opening date. The Dubai Expo team estimates 6,000 restaurants today serve the cuisine of 200 nations. So, places to sleep and eat are covered and covered well.
Dubai World Expo Pavilions
Divided among the opportunity, sustainability and mobility zones will be 192 country pavilions showing off their country’s related innovations. At its core is the Al Wasl Pavilion whose domed ceiling is the world’s only 360-degree projection surface. This pavilion’s plaza is for live performances. The UAE Pavilion, designed by Santiago Calatrava to resemble falcon wings, will be another focal point for activities.
More than 60 shows, parades and events each day will be hosted by various country pavilions. The countries are also responsible for stocking more than 200 dining outlets and food trucks with their respective international cuisines so this promises to be a foodie paradise as well.
Family Attractions in Dubai
There’s more to see and do than the World Expo. The family-focused UAE is famously packed with attractions, and Dubai family attractions promise fun and thrills.
Dubai’s several theme parks range from the familiar Legoland Dubai to the movie-themed Motiongate Dubai with its Smurfs and Dreamworks character zones. There’s also IMG Worlds of Adventure — an indoor theme park based on Marvel and Cartoon Network characters, Bollywood Parks Dubai and others. The Dubai Theme Park Pass provides shorter wait times and up to 50% savings depending on how many parks you want access to and how many days you need to do them all.
In addition to the famous Aquaventure water park at Atlantis, The Palm, there are several other amazing waterplay areas plus easy-to-book family activities such as sky diving, zip lining, car racing and even dune bashing on guided ATV tours.
Dubai Cultural Offerings
If the crowds are too dense at the fairgrounds, spend the day at the city’s al Fahidi Fort to see the Dubai Museum’s collection of dioramas, archeological finds and unusual exhibits, including one about pearl diving.
The Sheik Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding is another interesting venue which hosts meals and public events so that staff can answer questions about the UAE, its culture and religion.
Abu Dhabi is Another Base for World Expo Families
The Abu Dhabi and Dubai Airports are equidistant to the Dubai South location of the Dubai World Expo fairgrounds, and families coming to the Expo will find more accommodation and possibly better values by basing themselves in Abu Dhabi, the government center of the UAE.
This neighboring emirate complements Dubai’s attractions with a royal wildlife preserve, falcon rehabilitation center, desert camping and day safaris, family resorts and major arts and cultural organizations. Abu Dhabi just may be a more interesting place for families who are not familiar with the region to explore desert and historic Arab cultures.
There are plenty of child-friendly attractions in addition to visiting the Dubai World Expo. On Yas Island, for example, there’s a huge climbing wall, Warner Bros. theme park, Yas Waterworld and a Formula One racing track that loans bicycles one day a week to ride around it.
Abu Dhabi Cultural Offerings
Art lovers should start at Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island, a manmade development including housing, businesses, a beach that shelters rare Hawksbill sea turtles, golf club and remarkable cultural institutions. The UAE Pavilion from the Shanghai World Expo, designed by the U.K.’s Foster + Partners to resemble a sand dune, hosts the major Yas Island events.
All ages should see the major art collections at Saadiyat’s soon-to-open Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, the Zayed National Museum and Louvre Abu Dhabi, a branch of France’s famous museum which was designed by French architect Jean Nouvel. The beautiful structure is covered with a lace dome that emulates palm fronds and is surrounded by ponds that can be explored by kayak.
Trip Planning Details for Dubai World Expo
Devote at least one week to this special vacation. Dubai World Expo is open daily, with several specially themed days to match seasonal holidays. There will also be weeks themed to contemporary topics such as climate, health and wellness and water.
As a new opening date is announced, both Emirates and Etihad Airways (based in Abu Dhabi) will publish their air and land travel packages in conjunction with tour operators. Expect hotel and ticket packages from all hotels as well. The Dubai government is expanding public transportation to the fairgrounds with a new metro station and bus lines from terminals all over the city.
Families will be able to see, learn about and try so many new products during their visits that a three-day pass (AED 260 or US$71) is the best value. Children, students and others may buy one at a reduced rate of AED 130 (US$35); ages under 6 and over 65 enter free.
For more information, please visit Expo 2020 Dubai.
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