What To Do In Dubai While At Horse Racing’s International World Cup

Wow. Dubai is a lot. An orgiastic, diamond-encrusted platinum trough of extravagance and built-yesterday beauty. Everywhere. Yes, this desert-urban contradiction lays seaside on the Persian Gulf within the United Arab Emirates (UEA) and for Saratogians who relish the rush of celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Dubai World Cup in March 2020—not only the world’s richest horse race with a $12 million purse, but also its richest card, with a whopping $35 million in purses to go around—well, it’s time to pony up and schedule your trip right now. 

Beyond the thrill of the horses, this international adventure is truly an epic trip of a lifetime. Trust me, upon landing, you’ll quickly see why Lonely Planet put Dubai on its “Top Ten Cities” list of must-see destinations for 2020. But, what to do? There isn’t, of course, enough room in this story to detail the endless, luxurious, over-the-top places where you can eat, sleep and play in Dubai, but let’s hit some of the high notes.

One&Only The Palm
Terraced pools at One&Only The Palm.

If you’re worried about having to leave your children home, don’t. Hasn’t the kid in you always wanted to be Poseidon? The Palm Jumeirah, an artificial, tree-shaped archipelago off the coast of the city, is home to more than a dozen luxury resorts, including my two favorites, One&Only The Palm and Atlantis The Palm. The former is an all-inclusive, opulent resort with an enormous footprint that’ll make it hard to leave. The property is host to the magnificent Guerlain Spa, where Arabian wellness nights meet French beauty and the most ornate Moroccan Hammam spa on the planet resides, alongside its chic adults-only pool. Whether you choose a this-must-be-heaven, age-rewind facial or an all-day terraced wellness suite, you’ll feel new again—like a better version of you. Want to pump it up? The Palm Jumeirah’s ShuiQi Fitness Centre & Spa delivers. A food adventure? Go where Eurasia and the Middle East meet: ZEST, a Michelin star award-winning restaurant that boasts Moorish design and unforgettable delicacies. STAY, on the other hand, is the culinary experience where you should wear that perfect (expensive) outfit for the most elevated date night of your life, featuring French cuisine with an inventive twist. With a three-night booking, a complimentary two-day pass awaits for Aquaventure (the Club Atlantis Waterpark on steroids), The Lost Chambers Aquarium and Shark Feeding Show. The Palm also hosts unforgettable excursions in the desert: from hot air Balloon Adventures Dubai, safaris and waterskiing to a first-rate escorted tour of A Day In Historical Dubai, whose amazing spice market and trade center is one of many stopovers.

Shaking up the wow factor is the nearby Bvlgari Resort & Yacht Club in Jumeira Bay—and it’s as classy and sleek as anything you can imagine. (This is Dubai, after all.) It’s a fully inclusive resort with everything imaginable at your disposal—the rooms, suites and villas are next-level modern luxe. There are plenty of eats here, too. Il Ristorante–Niko Romito does superb Italian and a separate à la carte and truffle (yum!) menu. Hōseki is a globally renowned Japanese jewel box where your evening’s menu is decided by the executive chef. Just. Do. It. How about farm-to-massage table fresh? Bvlgari Spa offers an amazing deep detox massage, using Mediterranean plants such as myrtle, cypress, hyssop and juniper to smooth and refine your soul. Its iconic vitality pool resembles a true open air (all’aperto) Roman bath. 

Al Maha
A wildlife drive near Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa.

Ready for your next stop? Amidst the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve lies the Luxury Collection’s Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa, acknowledged as one of the best hotels in the world for its most untypical features. A cluster of what appears to be royal tented huts are really exquisite suite residences worthy of housing the remaining kings of the world. Or you. If you’re not staying there this trip, do drop in and take a look. Timeless Spa might make you want to replace your doctor, as its holistic, longevity-based Ayurveda is sublime. Dune dining on Persian carpets at Al Diwaan may be captured in your dreams forever, or you could just pop in to Hajar Terrace Bar for a sunset happy hour in the middle of the preserve. Al Maha is worthy of a day trip for falconry, horseback riding or camel trekking and, as always, a dip in the inviting pool.

Honestly, just add a few extra days onto your trip. You can see some of the finest, non-Saratoga racing of your life and have the trip of a lifetime. Of that, I’m sure.  

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