Hana Hussein is beyond thrilled checking out Dubai Parks and Resorts, the largest theme park resort in the Middle East
I WAS thrilled to bits when I heard that Legoland Dubai has opened its doors last October. I’ve been to Legoland Malaysia three times, and I’ve never found it boring.
And I’m sure I won’t with Legoland Dubai either. I get all fired up when I discover that the Legoland Dubai themepark is part of three other themeparks and a waterpark — all under Dubai Parks and Resorts. This massive 279ha all-in-one amusement site is the sole goal of my trip from Kuala Lumpur.
That sheer size makes Dubai Parks and Resorts the Middle East’s largest integrated leisure and theme park destination, located 40 minutes from Dubai city centre.
Upon arrival, I find there’s no better way to welcome for me (a self-confessed shopaholic) than with retail therapy at Riverland, a uniquely-themed retail and dining destination, free for all to enjoy.
We enter the park through the Boardwalk entrance. Lucky for us, we manage to get a parking spot near to the entrance. There are two parking options — the visitor carpark that costs AED20 (RM24) for general parking or AED80 for preferred parking but both are quite a long walk to the main entrance. There’s also the VIP parking which is so much nearer but costs AED100; the valet is at AED150. Good news is that parking is paid per entrance and it is valid all day.
The first thing I see at the entrance is a grand stretch. This place is like a city of its own, a singular island away from the outside world. From the entrance, we first encounter the irresistible Riverland. It is set in four zones: The Boardwalk featuring 1950s America, medieval France at The French Village, 1920s India at India Gate and the 19th Century-themed Peninsula.
There are more than 50 shops and restaurants as well as a range of entertainment — from street performances to festivals and concerts. Among the eateries are America’s popular steak house Famous Dave’s, Leopolds of London where you can sip and taste 75 types of tea from 45 countries, and also the web-viral Salt Bae’s (a.k.a. Chef Nusret Gokce) restaurant, Nusr-Et Burger! Maybe, you’ll be lucky to meet Salt Bae himself.
IN LEGO HEAVEN
Without wasting any more time, I quickly head towards Legoland.
The first thing I see is the iconic Legoland archway which is always crowded with visitors trying to get a nice shot of themselves in front of the arch without other people photobombing their pictures. Of course, I didn’t want to miss my chance either!
I don’t have to queue up for the tickets since I have already bought mine online, at AED505 per person for all theme parks, valid for seven days.
I walk straight to the Legoland entrance and encounter a vibrant boulevard for those wanting to get essentials for the day such as sunglasses and sunscreen, rent a stroller or grab a bite to eat.
You can also check out the Lego Factory to see how Lego bricks are made. I head straight to the star of every Legoland in the world, the Miniland. Guess what, this is the world’s first indoor Miniland and it is air-conditioned too!
Miniland Dubai features the world’s iconic structures rebuilt with over 20 million Lego bricks. Get ready to be amazed by the replica of the world’s tallest skyscraper, the Burj Khalifa. Standing at 17 metres tall, the mini Burj Khalifa is built with 439,000 Lego bricks. It took 5,000 hours to build! Amazing right?!
Other Dubai landmarks include the Burj Al-Arab, the Dubai International Airport, the Dubai Marina and more.
After making the rounds at the Miniland, I check out the four other themed lands to explore — Lego City, Kingdoms, Imagination and Adventure. You can access any of them from Miniland.
Most of the rides and interactive activities in the park are suitable for young kids aged 2-12. However, if you are a thrill junkie like me, you may want to head straight to The Kingdoms, a medieval land which offers more thrilling rides such as The Dragon roller coaster! And oh, don’t forget to watch the exhilarating 4D shows at the Lego Studios 4D theatres located at Imagination land.
During the cooler season, from October to March, you should also check out Legoland Water Park which features more than 20 water slides and attractions, each offering a different fun-soaked experience.
SLICE OF BOLLYWOOD
Next on the list is Bollywood Parks Dubai, showcasing an authentic Bollywood experience.
To be honest, I’m not really a huge fan of Bollywood. I have watched fewer than 20 Bollywood films in my entire life and I only know of a few Bollywood stars (mostly the popular ones) such as Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Salman Khan, Hrithik Roshan, Aishwarya Rai, Kajol and Kareena Kapoor, to name a few.
This is the first park in the world dedicated to all things Bollywood. There’s action, adventure, romance, comedy, music, dance — ala Bollywood.
Spread across five zones — Bollywood Boulevard, Mumbai Chowk, Rustic Ravine, Royal Plaza and Bollywood Film Studios — it features a Hall of Heroes. This is the recreation of the Bollywood experience through themed attractions and rides.
So, my plan is to just quickly walk through it. But, the park has its own plan for me. I get hooked! I absolutely love the grand entrance of the park. It feels like I am being transported to charming India. There’s the vibrant and flashy Indian architecture along Bollywood Boulevard. Be ready with your cameras the spectacular setting. However, there is not much else to do or see here except for the Crossroads stage which showcases a medley of flamboyant songs and dance performances that will take you on a grand trip down memory lane. Relive Bollywood’s bygone era and get an insight into the dramatic world of India’s legends.
At the Royal Plaza intersection, standing majestically on the northern part of the park is the Rajmahal Theatre. It looks like the mini version of the beautiful Taj Mahal.
You can watch Jaan-e-Jiger, a one-of-a-kind Bollywood musical at the Rajmahal Theatre, which can sit up to 856 visitors, at an additional cost.
On the west side are Mumbai Chowk and the Rustic Ravine. Mumbai Chowk showcases an interesting attraction, the Mumbai Express, where you can watch free shows featuring performance dancing on the rooftop of a train (not a real train), as well as the Don: The Chase 3D ride.
Rustic Ravine, on the other hand, has more attractions. It includes the Lagaan: The Thrill of Victory featuring a simulator-based ride that gives you the best point of view of a moving cricket ball. Although I haven’t watch this superhit movie starring Aamir Khan, I’m impressed with this quality ride!
I also have a go at Sholay: The Hunt for Gabbar Singh, a 3D interactive ride which arms you with laser guns to shoot at the dacoits led by the villainous Gabbar Singh from the hit movie Sholay. Another interesting attraction at Rustic Ravine is the Dabangg: Stunt Spectacular Show which is set in an abandoned warehouse. T
I then move on to the east side, towards the Bollywood Film Studios’ Hall of Heroes. Forget Batman and Superman, Bollywood has its own superheroes.
Say hello to Krrish, a hit superhero movie starring the Greek God of Bollywood, Hrithik Roshan. The Krrish: Hero’s Flight will take you on a 4D flying theatre ride and gives you panoramic views of India's spectacular landmarks while following Krrish on a battle to save Earth from an alien invasion. Very realistic!
Another superhero thrill is Shah Rukh Khan’s RA, who will take you on a 4D multi-sensory virtual ride in a battle for supremacy.
HAIL TO HOLLYWOOD
At last is my favourite park (unexpectedly) among the four — Motiongate Dubai!
It is the Middle East’s largest Hollywood-inspired theme park. Guests are invited to step into the magical, mythical worlds of some of cinema’s most beloved movies. I give this park a five-star rating as I can feel a connection to it, partly because I have watched most of the Hollywood films featured here, and the rides here are much more thrilling and savage! d!
There are 27 attractions, including roller coasters, multi-media rides, interactive play labs, media-based theatre shows, plus a full programme of roaming entertainment and live dance performances for every age.
Combining three film studios — Columbia Pictures, DreamWorks Animation and Lionsgate — in one theme park, visitors get to go beyond the screen and immerse themselves in the magic of Hollywood.
There are five zones to explore. The first is Studio Central that is inspired by the city of dreams, New York. If you’re early, you can also catch the opening theatrical shows.
Moving on to the Lionsgate zone, the attractions include the Capitol Bullet Train roller coaster and the Panem Aerial Tour motion simulator (both inspired by The Hunger Games trilogy movies). Unfortunately, these are still under construction and will be up soon. There’s also the Step Up Dubai, All In! live performance dance and singing show inspired by the Step Up film series. If you love hip-hop, this is definitely your scene.
Next, I head towards the indoor, air-conditioned Dreamworks zone which features four of my all-time favourite blockbuster animations — Kung Fu Panda, How to Train Your Dragon, Madagascar and Shrek. I’m all excited and can’t wait to see what’s within. At the centre is the Fountain of Dreams, a majestic multi-sensory fountain of all the cartoon characters. Such a grandiose welcome!
I am disappointed that the Train Your Dragon zone is not complete yet but I still have three more animation zones to explore.
Which should I explore first? Perhaps, Shrek and Fiona at the Far Far Away Kingdom. If you have kids, you can join the Swamp Celebration and embark on a rocking and rolling ride with the Ogres to surf up on the blistering mud bubbles of Shrek’s gassy swamp.
Next door is the Madagascar zone where we get to meet Alex, Marty, Melman, Gloria and some other playful characters. For the kids, I strongly recommend the Melman-Go-Round carousel or the Penguin Air. But if you’re a thrill seeker, check out the Madagascar Mad Pursuit. Not for the faint-hearted, this is actually a thrilling, super-fast rollercoaster. In fact, the fastest roller coaster in the park, and it rides through a glow-in-the-dark circus scene.
At the Kung Fu Panda Zone, you can enjoy Mr Ping’s Noodle Fling teacup ride or go on the state-of-the-art 4D simulator of the Unstoppable Awesomeness.
If you’re crazy about Smurf, head towards Smurf’s Village for a chance to meet the characters, but I feel like this is more for the younger kids.
The Smurf Village Express, Studio Tours and Playhouse are targeted at children.
To finish off my Motiongate journey, I head to the last zone, Columbia Pictures. Here is where the serious fun begins.
There are seven rides and attractions in this action-packed zone. Let’s start with the Blast Off ride. If you have watched Zombieland, you may be able to recognise this ride, which is built exactly the same as in the movie. You will first come face to face with zombies before you can escape on the 58m drop tower that will take you on a free-falling experience.
Want a more challenging ride? Check out the High Speed Chase, a Green Hornet style rollercoaster that is if you have the stomach for it, of course.
For something less unnerving yet, still an eerie ride, check out the 4D multi-sensory experience that will take you through the 800 years of war between the Vampires and Lycans, just like in the Underworld Awakening movie!
Another spooky ride is the Ghostbusters: Battle for New York interactive ride that will take you to the Temple of Gozer where you join in on an epic rooftop battle. This is where you can show off your shooting skills.
Okay, enough with the spine-chilling rides, I end my journey at Hotel Transylvania, where I get to meet Dracula, Mavis, Frankenstein and the others; I also get to tour the castle hotel on a coffin-like ride. What a way to end the day.
DUBAI PARKS AND RESORTS
Sheik Zayed Rd, Opp Palm Jebel Ali, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
TEL +971 4 820 0000
May 26 onwards (Summer Hours): 12pm-8pm
Legoland Water Park
May 26 onwards (Summer Hours): 10am-7pm
May 26 onwards (Summer Hours): 2pm-10pm
Bollywood Parks Dubai
May 26 onwards (Summer Hours): 4pm-12am
1 Day 2 Parks: AED335
2 Day 4 Parks: AED425
7 Day All Parks: AED505
There are two options
Visitors Parking and VIP parking