Tantrums, boredom and defiant clockwatching until bedtime rolls around... and that is just parents. Staying in every weekend watching Disney DVDs and making dens with blankets and teddy bears is a sure-fire way to go a little stir crazy. Banish boredom with our quick guide to family activities in Qatar that has the skinny on places to eat and the things to do both inside and out in Doha.
Places to eat
1 Café Ceramique
We couldn’t in all good consciousness write about this arty café and not mention the fact that it sells amazingly fluffy banana pancakes. Something that we hold in high regard. With that out of the way, we are also happy to point out that this is perhaps the only takeout where you eat in the café and then take the crockery away with you. At Café Ceramique you can paint and decorate plates, bowls, mugs and more, and then take them home to keep. You’ll have just as much fun as your kids.
Sat-Thu 10am-10pm, Fri 1-10pm. Café Ceramique, Old Airport Area, www.cafe-ceramique.com (4467 1100).
2 Cool de Sac
Is this a restaurant with a play area attached? Or a play area with a restaurant built on the side? Here’s an option – you can sit in the healthy dining room and make up your mind while your kids are fully entertained by clowns, paint, activities, playing and generally dashing around having fun. Essentially it’s like a year-round, on demand summer camp. But with the added bonus of good food for the grown ups thrown in.
Cool de Sac, The Pearl Qatar, www.cooldesac.com (3333 4112).
At our last restaurant awards, we handed the InterContinental Doha’s International buffet a highly commended prize in our family dining category, precisely because it caters so well to the family dining dynamic. It is not fine dining, but neither is it junk food and the satisfying spread and reasonable price, along with a compact play area, make it a solid choice for mixed age-group meals out.
Coral, InterContinental Doha, West Bay, www.intercontinetal.com (4484 4444).
4 Dine with superheroes
A new family brunch at the Ritz-Carlton Doha might just be the most child-friendly meal deal in the city. Bouncy castles, face paints, staff in superhero costumes and themed food are core components of the theme. The food is served picnic-style, making it an informal and casual experience.
Last Friday of the month, 12.30-4pm. From QR249 (adults), QR99 (kids aged 9-12). Lagoon, The Ritz-Carlton Doha www.ritzcarlton.com (4484 8512).
5 Orient Pearl
We handed this Corniche restaurant the title of Best Family Restaurant in Doha at our last awards to recognise the wonder of the enormous play area. We reckon it is the biggest of its kind in the city and that is quite a claim for a restaurant that also serves such good food. While seated at the outdoor terrace, parents can sample an international menu which skips across continents and cuisines while kids quite literally skip across the playground.
Noon-1am. Orient Pearl, Doha Corniche, next to Salata Park, www.orientpearlqatar.com (4410 6666).
Things to do:
6 Build your own teddy bear
If you’ve ever lost a child’s favourite toy you will understand the connection little ones can make with their furry friends. When that is a teddy that they design, make and name themselves, the bond is even tighter. They’ll even get a birth certificate for the thing. The genius of the Build-A-Bear workshop chain is that it makes a trip to the toy store into a major event, and while parents stand on the side-lines looking baffled at the devotion, there is no denying the smiles on little faces.
Build-A-Bear Workshop, Lagoona Mall, West Bay, www.buildabear.ae (4488 2471).
7 Dive into Ray’s Reef
An underwater-themed play area with friendly characters, private rooms, a café and multiple areas for different activities. A mini-movie theatre, ball pool, craft zone, bumper cars and games arcade are just some of the many highlights.
Sun-Thu 11.30am-10pm, Fri 3.30am-11pm, Sat 10am-10pm. Ray’s Reef, Royal Plaza, Al Sadd Street, www.royalplazadoha.com (4413 0000).
8 Find fun in fitness
Like a gym, but for kids. That means far less Lycra, grunting and heavy lifting and a lot more running around playing ball games and quirky sports. Classes operate from Tiny Tykeswaddlers (seven months) all the way through to Champions (eight years old) and are designed to be age-specific for the psychological and physical well-being and growth of each category. Popular with parents who can sit by and let kids exhaust themselves.
Check the website for an up-to-date class timetable. My Gym, New Slata Road, www.mygym-qatar.com (4464 1429).
9 Fun on a big scale at Megapolis
A games arcade, bowling alley, karaoke suite and simulators for F1 driving, flying jets and even playing golf – it’s hard to pick out just a single highlight from Doha’s largest entertainment centre. So we won’t. We will list more of the excitement that awaits, though. Billiards, console gaming and boutique stores to name just a few.
Sun-Sat 10am-2am. Megapolis. The Pearl-Qatar, www.megapolisqatar.com (3303 0555).
10 Have fun at Gondolania
This should be at the top of all family hit-lists. From Venetian-style gondola rides to bumper cars on ice, it also has a fair share of bowling, billiards, arcade games, a flume ride and a roller coaster to boot. Did we mention the laser tag, go karting and ice skating thrown in for good measure? Think twice before stepping on board the horror rides though!
Sat-Wed 9am-11pm, Thu-Fri 9am-midnight. Gondolania, Villaggio Mall, Al Waab www.gondolania.com (4403 9800).
11 Say yes to CanDo Doha
Stopping kids playing digital games to give them more time for exercise is a citywide struggle. Unless, that is, you take kids to this Gate Mall hangout where digital games involve real exercise and virtual challenges take actual physical effort. By jumping, cycling, rowing and dancing, kids earn points that can be used to enjoy 4D rides, sensory puzzles and more. The whole centre is an interactive environment with lots of scientifically educational elements to it, too.
Sat-Thu 10am-10pm, Fri 1-11pm. CanDo Doha, Gate Mall, West Bay, www.facebook.com/CanDoDoha (6680 3422).
12 Swing into the Jungle Zone
No parent has ever climbed out of bed and said, “Gee, I wish I could go on a flume ride, mountain coaster, mini rodeo, and bumper cars in a jungle-themed play area today”. Kids, on the other hand, think that roughly once every hour. Look out for a 7D cinema experience and a sky venture aerial assault course.
Sun-Wed 9am-10pm, Thu 9am-11.45pm, Fri 1-11.45pm, Sat 9am-11pm. Jungle Zone, Hyatt Plaza, Al Rayyan, www.junglezone.com.qa (4499 9699).
Things to do:
13 Become a Padi bubblemaker
Living in a seaside city means thoughts of the underwater world is never far away. Let children’s thoughts take on a fantastical edge by introducing them to the deep with scuba diving lessons. Dive schools such as Poseidon have certified courses for children such as PADI bubblemaker, seal team, snorkelling or even swimming starter lessons for children.
Poseidon Dive Centre, Hilton Doha, West Bay, www.pdcqatar.com (6608 4040).
14 Get active at Aspire
We’re not sure we could love this place any more. It’s the hub of sporting activity in Qatar and central to plans for the World Cup 2022, athletics championships and more of the nation’s sporting ambitions. More importantly, it is home to numerous sporting facilities that you can get your kids involved with. As well as the football, athletics and various other sporting pitches, the Aspire Active programme for young children is a series of events and fun sessions to help them develop a strong interest in movement and fitness from an early age.
Aspire Zone, Aspire Zone Road, www.aspirezone.qa, (4413 8188).
15 Make sandcastles on the beach
There are so many things happening down at Katara that families could easily spend a full day here. Start off with sandcastles and child-friendly watersports at the waterside play area; 1.5km of beach means there is lots of space for kids to run around and play games. Take a stroll around the 32,700 square metre gardens where you’ll find more than 200 varieties of plants and trees, before trying an evening gondola ride and choosing from the many restaurants for dinner.
9.30am-10pm. Katara Beach, Katara Cultural Village, www.katara.net (4408 0000).
16 Picnic in the park
A day out with kids doesn’t need to mean splashing cash. A few home-made sandwiches, a rug to sit on and a ball to chase after is really all you need. Especially if you throw in an ice cream. We’re fans of Dahl Al Hammam park. Kids are obviously going to love having a peek at the caves, but it’s the free Wi-Fi and numerous shaded playgrounds which we really appreciate. Older children will love the skate park and sports pitches and courts.
Dahl Al Hammam, next to Landmark Mall, Al Markhiya Street.
17 Ride the slides at Aqua Park Qatar
Do you really want to be the parent who refused to go to a waterpark the whole time the family was living in Doha? Of course not. Pack the children in the car and steady yourself for a day of surfing, sliding and the particularly child-friendly pirate bay area. A lazy river and rides for varying degrees of bravery are going to keep children of all ages busy for hours and earn you significant parental brownie points.
Sun-Wed 1-10pm, Thu-Sat 10am-10pm. Aqua Park Qatar, Salwa Road www.aquaparkqatar.com (4490 5672).
18 Saddle up and learn to ride
There is a proud history of equestrianism in the Gulf and Arabian horses are among the finest breeds on the planet. Starting your child’s riding education early, therefore, makes sense. A stables and equine education centre such as Al Shaqab will teach the basics of riding in a variety of styles and is a good place to start building skills for children as young as six.
Al Shaqab, Education City, www.alshaqab.com (4454 6320).
Family life in Doha
Family-friendly films being released in cinemas this November.
The percentage of Qatar’s population that is under the age of 15.
The age you become too cool to hang out with mum and dad.
The number of schools and nurseries in Doha.