We often think of being healthy in terms of going to the gym and exercising. However, exercising outdoors has proven to be better than exercise in a built environment for mental health, while exercising in either space yields positive results for physical health. How often do you head to one of Abu Dhabi’s parks to exercise? A study conducted in Finland confirms that “nature provides an added value to the known benefits of physical activity. Repeated exercise in nature is, in particular, connected to better emotional well-being.”
Working toward boosting a healthier lifestyle for its residents, both mentally and physically, Abu Dhabi has been upgrading its parks and public green spaces and opening up new ones as well.
Here are some beautiful parks to enjoy now and even more as the weather starts to cool. This is the park list for you if you want to: take a walk in a beautiful green space, do more rigid exercise, take your family for a break from all the city’s noise and skyscrapers, have a little picnic with friends, or if you are looking for a new date spot.
There is still a reason this one is at the top of the list. Umm Al Emarat Park has it all: beautiful gardens (children’s garden, wisdom garden and a botanical garden), a zoo, an amphitheater and plenty of green lawns. There are many places to eat or grab a coffee inside the park, such as the popular breakfast spot Home Bakery and Island Coco for fresh drinks, along with some outlets right outside like Salt. All of which makes Umm Al Emarat Park a great destination to visit and revisit. There’s something to do for every type of person and every time of day. During the cooler months, The Ripe Market takes place every Saturday. This park, located in Al Mushrif area on Mohammed Bin Khalifa and Al Karamah streets, has an entry fee of Dh10, but it’s absolutely worth it for all the experiences you can have once you’re inside the park. There is plenty of parking space, so don’t worry about your car as you head there.
The Lake Park
As the name suggests, this park has a beautiful lake at the center of it where people gather and watch ducks swim. While this is not big news for many parts of the world, it’s exciting for children here to see ducks or even try to feed them. This park may be very close to the highway, located right off Corniche Road and Sultan Bin Zayed the First Street, but it is still extremely comforting to grab a seat and disengage from the rest of the city for a little bit. Feel free to drive there as you will find more than enough parking space, and while you’re at it, you can walk over to the two neighboring parks on the Corniche: Formal Park and Family Park. Or you can easily cross the road for a stroll by the water.
In the center of the city, this park somehow creates a haven from all the high rises around it. It is one of the oldest parks in Abu Dhabi, built in 1976, but has since gone through renovations in 2015. Families go here on weekends for picnics and many workers visit to have their lunch throughout the week. This spot is worth making a stop as it is an integral part of Abu Dhabi city’s history: not only has it stood the test of time, and is beautifully surrounded by Abu Dhabi’s expected scene of skyscrapers, it is calming, too. If you live in Abu Dhabi and haven’t been yet, it’s time to head to Capital Park for a walk, a meal or a convenient escape into some greenery. Capital Park is located in Al Markaziyah, right off Khalifa Bin Zayed the First street. But while it has street parking around it, it might be hard to find spots.
Khalifa Park makes for a great destination if you’re looking for a little more out of a park experience. That’s because it offers a maritime museum, a cultural library and an aquarium. This park covers 500,000 square meters of space in total, making it one of the larger outdoor spaces in Abu Dhabi. To top it all off, there is a train to take you across the premises. And if you want to occupy your kids with more activities, they can head to the Murjan Splash Park for some water fun. One of the coolest aspects of Khalifa Park is that you can sit down with family and friends, or on your own, with the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in the background. This huge park has more than enough parking space and you can find it off Al Hamamah and Das Streets.
Yas Gateway Park
Located on Yas Island, this park is split into a north and south section, with both sides connected by pathways. You can find more than enough parking space in both sections. With a lot of shaded green areas, play areas for children and even tennis courts, this is the park to go to for an active weekend because it will also allow you to get out of Abu Dhabi island. This park is so large, it often feels like you have all the space in the world to yourself: no matter how many people are there, you can always find space to be alone. Whether you want to go for a tennis match with your friends and family, or if you want to be left alone and read a book on the lawns, this is the spot for you.
Al Khalidiya Park
In this downtown garden, filled with luscious lawns and palm trees, you’ll meet plenty of walkers and families. This one is particularly popular with families due to the flat terrain and the location being so central. While it is not the best park to try to drive to, as parking space is limited, it is still a park worth exploring. If you live around or near Khalidiya, head to Khalidiya Park for your daily walk or a little picnic. It is often packed on the weekends but is quieter during the week. You can easily get to this park from Al Khaleej Al Arabi Street.
Reem Central Park
It may be out of the way for many people, but this is one of the more exciting parks — if least green — to go to in Abu Dhabi. With a large skate park that has become home to Abu Dhabi’s skater community, a BMX track, fountains, plenty of seating space and food outlets, Reem Central Park is great for a little exercise followed by a meal. Even if you don’t live on Reem Island, this park is worth a day trip. You could follow it up with a trip to the mangroves nearby. Also, with its own allocated parking, you don’t have to worry about your car.
Eastern Mangrove Lagoon National Park
Just outside the city center, the Eastern Mangroves make a great spot for a more varied day in nature. This is the place to go to for birdwatching and exploring botanical life. You can always rent a kayak or hop on a boat for a ride across the mangroves, or you can just stroll on the walkway next to them. This is not the ideal park if you’re looking for something on the cheaper side, but it’s an Abu Dhabi gem that’s worth visiting at least once. Parking is no issue here, so while you are at the Eastern Mangroves, you can end your day with a sundown meal at the Anantara Eastern Mangroves Abu Dhabi Hotel, or next door, at the Eastern Mangroves Promenade.
Al Fay Park
The first of its kind and the newest in Abu Dhabi, this park is designed and planted with botanical life that is native to the region. It has more than 2,000 plants, shrubs and grasses that were selected for their resilience and ability to survive this weather. This park uses 50 percent less water than a conventional park. Besides its beautiful botanical selections, Al Fay Park is marketed as accessible to able-bodied people and people of determination. The facilities include: table tennis, badminton and football courts, skate park, climbing wall, a track, a beach volleyball court, a kids’ play area, a fitness area, a forest path. There are also several food trucks. Note that while there is a parking lot, it is small. The good news about this park? Not that many people know about it yet.
Lina Elmusa is a literature and coffee lover. She tries to understand the world through language. She's currently exploring the world of media at livehealthy.ae.