A Three-Day Family Trip to Doha
Qatar can be the perfect destination for a short break, especially for families looking for a little winter sun, when the Middle East is probably at its best. It's clean, safe, and has plenty of attractions to keep the whole family occupied and entertained for a few days -- and there's also a chance to learn more about the food, history, and culture of the region at the same time.
For somewhere to stay in the centre of Doha, the Centara West Bay Residences & Suites is a good choice for family groups, especially with its choice of one, two and three-bedroom apartments to keep everyone together, as well as restaurants, pool, and fitness facilities to make it a real home from home. Then you can start planning what to see and do.
Doha has plenty of attractions for younger children and teenagers, so you'll be able to keep them occupied without too much trouble. One idea would be to visit Festival City Mall just outside the city centre, because once you get there you'll find Snow Dunes, Virtuocity, and Angry Birds World all in one location.
At Snow Dunes there's no skiing, but lots of sliding on artificial snow, so you'll either need to bring warm clothing, or rent some on site. If you're travelling with older teenagers who are unimpressed by anything other than games on their phones, Virtuocity might just grab their attention.
This venue plays host to local e-sports competitions in its Arena, and allows visitors to enjoy hours of gaming pleasure using high-quality equipment and facilities.
Angry Birds World
Angry Birds World has both indoor and outdoor sections offering rides and activities for all the family. One final tip -- Festival City Mall has one of Qatar's two branches of Five Guys -- a burger chain that leaves its more famous rivals far behind.
Qatar isn't all desert. Along the coast you can find areas of mangroves which are teeming with local wildlife, including many different species of fish and birds. Several tour operators offer kayaking expeditions to explore the mangroves, so if your children are old enough to paddle themselves across the water, a mangrove trip makes a great afternoon out. Don't forget water and sunscreen -- it can get hot out there!
On Fridays, the Islamic day of rest, brunch is a big thing for the locals, and you'll find some amazing buffet spreads to enjoy at all the leading hotels and restaurants. Prices of course vary, but at the cheaper end you'll be paying around USD $40 per head with soft drinks included. The alcohol-inclusive options cost more, and the prices rise as you move upmarket. It's a good idea to check online for the best deals when you're there, but note that some of the hotels will offer poolside brunches where the kids can play while the adults indulge.
Kids love the beach, and if you're staying in Doha, your best option is probably Katara Beach located at the Katara Village development for art and culture. It's about 3 km north of the Corniche and city centre, and features a range of shopping and dining options as well as beach activities. One advantage is that there's a Metro station directly opposite so it's easy to get there. Second choice would be the beach at Al Wakrah, where families often gather to use the barbecue facilities or nearby restaurants. This one is a little to the south of Doha, a very short taxi ride from the end of the red Metro line. There are mangroves here too, which makes it possible to see fish and other wildlife. If you do choose to visit the public beach, remember to keep covered up in line with the local culture -- bikinis are not the done thing.
For something educational, Qatar's new National Museum which opened in 2019 might be the perfect choice. While adults have to pay around USD $13 for entrance (January 2020), children 16 and under are free, and there's enough to see to keep you busy for a couple of hours. The museum presents Qatar's history from long before Qatar came into existence. The story starts with the geological formation of the Qatari peninsula and the wildlife living there throughout the ages. Then visitors learn about the people of the desert, and the pearl fishing industry. The traditional lives of the people prior to the discovery of oil are presented, followed by the transformation of Qatar as first oil, and then natural gas, turned the country into the economic powerhouse we know today. The modern history is presented through video montages narrated by the people who lived the lives depicted. In each section of the museum there are exhibits designed to appeal to children too, with museum staff on hand to help visitors to interact with the materials.
When you've decided what you want to see and do in Doha, the final thing to think about is how to get around from one activity to the next. Fortunately, this will be simple and inexpensive. If you like public transport, the new Metro system is cheap and excellent, with three lines open by December 2019, and more to come. There is a relatively comprehensive bus network, but the frequencies leave something to be desired; you'd have to plan carefully using the schedules if you don't want to find yourself having a long wait for the next bus. Perhaps the best option, however, would be Uber. Fares are surprisingly cheap, and of course you'll know exactly how much your Uber journey will cost before you set off. If you're taking the whole family around Doha in the heat, this would definitely be our recommended approach.