United Arab Emirates
Galleries at Gate Village
Gate Village, Dubai International Finance Centre
The village surrounding the DIFC's Arc de Triomphe lookalike, the gate, is also home to some of the city's best galleries. You'll find the classic upscale operations here (Christie's, for example, has their office in this area) as well as some local galleries that are more than worth touring, like Ayyam Gallery (they also have a location in Beirut). You can cover all the art spaces an hour or so, but check the calendar for their art nights, which bring live music and performance to the space in the evenings.
Remaliya at Dubai Ladies Club
Jumeirah Rd., Jumeirah
While distance doesn't make it an easy trip to plan for those coming from the Americas and around, as a city, Dubai is well-suited for a girls trip. For starters, it's extremely safe, and more so than other popular celebratory destinations (say, Miami or Vegas), the culture here has a real respect for privacy, which is refreshing if all you want to do is get some quality time with your girl gang. Plus, there are some fun ladies-only activities, one of them being a trip to the Dubai Ladies Club. Located on the beach, the club offers membership and day rates, for access to the pool, tennis and squash courts, spa, fitness classes, and so on. (There are also options for kiddos, too.) For a peek into the club life, come for breakfast or lunch at Remaliya—the pretty cafe (which also has an outdoor terrace for not-scorching days) makes some of the most refreshing smoothies and juices in the city. (Note that Remaliya is open to men on Mondays until 2pm.)
Burj Al Arab Terrace, Jumeirah
In 2016, the Burj al Arab added an outdoor terrace that perches over the Persian Gulf. (Another impressive architectural feat for the city: The 10,000-square-meter deck arrived in eight sections and was installed in twelve weeks.) The swimming pools (one fresh, one salt water) and air-conditioned beach cabanas are just for guests, but anyone can dine at the restaurant, Scape. Come for sunset, views of the gulf and city, plus a new angle to see the Burj al Arab from, up close. The cocktails are good and the food menu can satisfy a range of diners—try the crispy chicken with BBQ miso and a carrot-ginger purée.
Kite Beach, Jumeirah
Started by two women, Amal Al Marri and Deem Albassam, Salt began as a temporary food truck at Kite Beach. (This sounds like a familiar story in many cities but food trucks weren't a thing in Dubai when they tried it, and they still aren't at the level of what you'll find in LA, NYC, London, etc.) While a lot of Dubai's eating and entertainment happens indoors (mall culture is huge here), Marri and Albassam wanted to create a fun spot for locals to hang outdoors. Salt now has a permanent spot at Kite Beach, and it's wildly popular. The menu—sliders, fries, softies—is indulgently good beach food. If you're feeling adventurous, the cereal latte is a bestseller. (There's also a Cheetos-fried chicken sandwich option...)
Social by Heinz Beck
Waldorf Astoria, Crescent Rd., Palm Jumeirah
Heinz Beck, of three-Michelin-star La Pergola in Rome, serves an elegant Italian menu at Social, his white-tablecloth restaurant at the Waldorf Astoria on Palm Jumeirah. Leave room to share a few desserts, and also note that Wednesday is ladies night, with a three-course menu (plus a couple of drinks) at a reasonable set price.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Blvd., Downtown
As a young city, Dubai is still building its cultural scene. Toward that goal, and the delight of many locals, the Dubai Opera house, which was under construction for a few years, opened at the end of 2016, a 5,800-square-foot marine-style, dhow-shaped building in the heart of downtown. The venue is the performance arts hub of the city, putting on a wide array of ballets, operas, plays, musicals, comedy shows, and concerts.
The capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi is about ninety miles from Dubai, an hour and a half or so by car. If you have extra time in Dubai and you haven't explored the UAE before, it's worth the trip out; every emirate in the UAE is remarkably differently (also see Sharja/Aman). There aren't many mosques that non-Muslims can enter in Dubai (or the region), but the most stunning one, which happens to be open to visitors, is in Abu Dhabi—Sheikh Zayed Mosque, named after the original president of the UAE. An enormous, majestic place of prayer—built with more than 100,000 tons of white marble, to fit 40,000 worshippers—Sheikh Zayed Mosque has eighty-two domes, one thousand pillars, and four crowning minarets. The architecture and design borrows from diverse Islamic styles and includes subtle floral shapes cut with semi-precious stones and sharp, geometric details, that as a whole feel strikingly modern. Visitors can go inside the mosque as long as prayer isn't in session, where you can see the world's largest hand-knotted carpet (5,700 square meters that are said to be the work of 1,2000 craftsmen and took…
The Ritz-Carlton Dubai
Jumeirah Beach Residence
Dubai’s Ritz-Carlton has a lot to offer, even beyond what you’d expect (excellent service, abundant amenities, generally luxurious furnishings, etc.). For starters, the location is hard to beat: it’s situated in JBR—super close to the water—which means that addition to being beautiful, it’s in a very walkable part of Dubai (slightly removed but close to the center of beach activity) that’s brimming with energy. Their restaurant, Blue Jade, is a next-level sushi restaurant that is a draw independent of the hotel. Plus, the Ritz-Carlton is one of several great places to try a lavish Dubai afternoon tea situation—their bar, Lobby Lounge, serves tea daily from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., which means you can opt into a full experience that includes decadent bites ranging from éclairs to smoked salmon rillettes (and whiskey flights, if that’s more your thing).
Alserkal Ave., Al Quoz
This place is a design junkies dream. Even if you're not in the market for home décor, the sprawling showroom and its endless stock of unique furniture, lighting, and home cinema options is worth a visit. (The sales people are incredibly knowledgeable about the design world.) Ikonhouse also hosts occasional talks with noteworthy architects, technology innovators, furniture designers, and more.
Madinat Jumeirah, Jumeirah
Built directly onto a private wooden pier with a stunning glassed-in terrace and bay views, this is the ideal place for a romantic evening. While not particularly glitzy, the ambiance is undeniably elevated, as is the seafood-centric menu: the caviar, lobster, and fresh fish are offered in every imaginable incarnation. Dinner is always a sure thing, though the locals like to flock here for the boozy brunch, which can't be overstated: Brunch is huge in Dubai—really the thing to do on Fridays (which is the UAE's Saturday).