And breathe; the summer's over. Well, almost. In our book, anything less than oven-hot counts as autumn, having spent the past three months locked indoors, turning green from lack of sunlight and begging for reprieve from the living hell that is the indoor play area (you know the ones - full of squishy things, stomach-lurching rides and mind-numbing screeching). Which means activities. Outdoor ones. In the fresh air. You'd forgotten there was a beach, hadn't you? And parks. And miles of undulating desert (OK, maybe not that bit). Either way, cooler temperatures mean that there are now more opportunities for the family to enjoy the great outdoors than you've got weekends available. We've rounded up the 10 best ways to make the most of the good weather - and bank that vitamin D.
With scores of golf courses in the UAE, many with excellent facilities for young learners, if you haven't already taken up the sport as a family hobby, now's the time to do it. Abu Dhabi City Golf Club's thriving Junior Academy runs eight-week courses (from Dh550 for children aged four and up), and hosts monthly junior golf tournaments. www.adcitygolfclub.ae. In Dubai, Emirates Golf Club runs a similar programme (Dh850 for an eight-week course, tuition only) for children aged six and over. Visit www.dubaigolf.com.
The horse is an integral part of Arabian heritage, and equine facilities here are excellent. The Dubai Polo and Equestrian Club's Riding Academy is hugely popular, and offers a package of 10 lessons (for children aged six and above) in a variety of disciplines, including show jumping, dressage and polo, from Dh1,400. Call 04 361 8111 or go to www.poloclubdubai.com. At the Abu Dhabi Golf and Equestrian Club, there are pony rides available for young children (under six) at Dh50 for 20 minutes, while older children (six and above) can take group riding lessons, Dh300 per person for 45 minutes. Call 02 445 5500.
The Corniche beach in Abu Dhabi has undergone a substantial overhaul in recent years and now boasts numerous family facilities, including bikes for hire, play areas, beach volleyball pitches and a safe swimming area. A wakeboarding "Beginners Park" has also recently been added, where people of all ages can take a "taster lesson" from an expert, free of charge. In Dubai, why not try your hand at surfing? Surf Dubai offers lessons for children (aged six and over) and adults on Umm Suqeim Open Beach in a variety of packages, including a "Birthday Surf Party", as well as private and group lessons from Dh175. www.surfingdubai.com
With the capital preparing to welcome the Volvo Ocean Race fleet this New Year's Eve, efforts are being made in Abu Dhabi to develop the grass roots sailing scene. Lessons are available at Abu Dhabi Sailing Club to members of The Club (www.the-club.com) and at the International Sailing School (part of the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club) call 02 681 3446 or visit www.adimsc.ae. The Dubai Offshore Sailing Club (www.dosc.ae) has long been a focal point for the city's seafarers. Their Royal Yachting Association-recognised sailing school offers tuition to club members (children aged six and above) through the RYA Youth Training Scheme. The courses are heavily subscribed but enquiries can be made by calling 04 394 1668 ext. 1007 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Abu Dhabi's mangroves are open to the public, and kayak tours through this peaceful natural habitat are a great way of seeing a different side of the city. There is a range of tours available, including the "mystery night paddle" and "kayak fishing". Children of all ages are welcome, as long as they are supervised by an adult. Prices for a 1.5hr tour of the mangroves (minimum of four people in a group) start at Dh100 per person. Visit www.noukhada.ae
The Yellow Boats
There's boating and then there's yellow boating: these inflatable craft, powered by a beast of an engine, allow you to zip around the city's waterways on an adrenalin-pumping tour. Services are offered in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai, although some of the faster tours are only available for children aged 12 and over. A 75-minute tour of the Palm Jumeirah and Burj Al Arab costs Dh150 for a child and Dh200 for an adult. Call 800 8044 or go to www.theyellowboats.com
A visit to Al Ain Camel Market allows you to experience the practice of breeding, buying and selling these much-loved animals - once the only mode of transport here. This authentic glimpse of a still thriving slice of UAE heritage is open daily and entry is free. Al Ain Camel Market is located behind Bawadi Mall on the road to Beyzad Al Ain.
Desert driving / sand-boarding
The desert is the UAE's most bountiful resource, and one that can best be enjoyed during the winter months. The best way to explore it is with an authorised tour company which can usually offer fixed or tailor-made activity packages. A half-day of desert driving and sand-boarding (surfing the dunes) costs Dh245 per person for a family of four with Arabian Adventures (www.arabian-adventures.com).
Dhows in Dibba
One of the best things about cooler temperatures is that the Musandam Peninsula, the stunning tip of the Arabian Peninsula, is once again ripe for visiting. It may be famous for its diving, but there are plenty of family-friendly activities too, including dhow sailing, fishing and snorkelling. And if you don't fancy going for the whole weekend, Amazing Musandam (www.musandam.ae) offers a day trip to Dibba that includes a dhow trip, water activities such as banana boating, snorkelling and swimming, lunch and transport for Dh350 per adult and Dh250 per child.
You need only visit the UAE's fish markets to witness the wealth of sea life here, but if you fancy catching some for yourself, then fishing is another great way to make the most of the fantastic climate. All different levels are available, from deep-sea and big-game fishing, to simply finding something to throw on the barbie. Three hours in a 31ft twin-engine Barracuda boat costs Dh790 from the Hiltonia Beach Club in Abu Dhabi. Call 02 692 4205.