Travel The World With Kids: Riyadh

Posted: February 29, 2012

In the Women’s Web ‘Travel The World With Kids’ series, we talk to mums from all over the globe who are interested in exploring their backyard attractions with their tiny tots! We hope you find them useful, if someday you choose to visit their part of the world. Presented in Q&A format, this one is with Princess Laylah from Riyadh, who blogs about life in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) at Blue Abaya

Saudi Arabia, the kingdom behind the veil, has been in the news often enough, lately. Laylah, takes us through the capital city, Riyadh in search of some kid-friendly fun.

Assalam alaikum Laylah! Do tell us about yourself.

I’m a western expat woman living in Saudi-Arabia with my Saudi husband. We have one daughter who is about to turn one year soon!

What are some of your suggestions for parents visiting Riyadh with young kids?

Riyadh is a very child and family friendly city. You will find family sections in most restaurants and all of the largest malls have huge play areas and indoor amusement parks for children. These contain activities suitable for children of all ages. Chuck E. Cheese recently opened a branch on Olaya street which is worth visiting too,

For more outdoorsy people, there are numerous theme parks lined on the Thumamah road. Some of these include waterparks as well which are for children only.

Nearby, beside the highway are quadbike rental areas which also have small bikes suitable for children under parental supervision of course. This area also has places where you can take your children for camel and horseback rides in the desert.

Salam Park is a large park with an artificial lake in the middle where you can rent paddling boats. It has lots of other activities for the small and grown-up members of the family.

Historical Diriyah area boasts traditional houses and old mud village including palaces, farms with farm animals, designated picnic areas complete with stunning views and a place to safely put up a fire for BBQ. There are many kilometers of walkways around the vast area surrounded by beautiful nature. Lots of families go here on weekends to enjoy the outdoors.

The Riyadh Equestrian Club in Janadriyah has horse races every Friday which are free for families to visit. The races start around 4 continuing until around 8 p.m.

The area around the National Museum also makes for a lovely day out. There are gardens and waterfalls for kids to enjoy and a small amusement park next to the water tower. The tower also has a viewing platform. The Museum and King Abdulaziz Historical Center would be worth visiting with slightly older kids.

What have been some of your favourite outings in Riyadh with your kids?

My favorite outing is going to the desert. Of course it is not for everyone, but there are surprisingly green areas out there and even a flowing river in the outskirts of Riyadh. They are easy to reach and families can pack their picnic and camping gear with them and choose any area they like to spend the day out. After the rains small lakes form in the desert, making for nice picnic spots.

For tourists visiting Riyadh for the first time, do you have any particular tips?

For female visitors you will need an abaya, the black cloak that you will wear over your clothing while in public. Non-Muslims don’t need to cover their hair but it’s a good idea to keep a scarf with you when out and about just in case. It’s not advisable for men to wear shorts in public; some malls might deny entry for men in shorts deemed too short by mall security. Children can wear whatever they want and only girls that have reached puberty are expected to wear the abaya.

Photography is allowed but taking pictures of government and airport buildings are restricted.

The traffic can be quite bad and congested and it’s advisable to always wear your seatbelts and secure children in car seats!

Visitors should keep in mind that almost all shops and venues will be open first in the morning from around 9 or 10 to 12. Then close until 4 p.m and from then on shops are open until 10-11p.m excluding prayer times, when everything closes.

Which time of year is it best to visit KSA with kids?

Weather-wise I would say October, there’s nice warm weather and usually no sandstorms during that time of year. The rains haven’t come in yet so the desert does not look as green as for example February, but on the other hand sandstorms are likely to hit the region from around January until May. I guess all months except the hottest May to August are fine to visit with small children.

Are there any particular restaurants in Riyadh that you think kids will enjoy?

As mentioned earlier Chuck E. Cheese is always a favorite with kids who love their pizza!

If your children are into seafood and Asian food then Mirage is a nice place because the restaurant is full of beautiful fish tanks and the décor there is nice.

Another must visit is the traditional Najdi Village restaurant. You can check out my blog for more Riyadh Restaurant reviews.

Are there any particular shopping areas in Riyadh that you think kids will enjoy?

The shopping malls have indoor amusement parks, so kids will enjoy the shopping experience. Granada mall has one of the nicest indoor parks and Hayat mall has an ice skating rink as well. These two malls have excellent toy and clothing shops for kids as well. 

Any kid-friendly day trips out from Riyadh?

Some families like to drive to the East coast to AlKhobar where they go to the beach for the day. Especially nice in the hotter months! The drive is about 3-4 hours. There are many resorts and hotels to choose from if one opts to stay the night there.

A nice day trip is to a large green garden in the middle of the desert called Rawdhat Khuraim. Children can run around and play and families often go here for picnics. On the way there are places to buy toys such as kites to try out in the desert.

Apart from Riyadh, are there any other must-do places in KSA for kids?

The coastal cities like Dammam and Jeddah are a must for families that love the sea and beach holidays. There are many child friendly hotels and resorts with private beaches where the whole family are able to swim together. 

How easy/difficult is it travelling around with kids in KSA?

I would say relatively easy, there are places to stop to rest on the highways but I must warn that toilet facilities are not always in that good of a condition!

Renting a car is relatively cheap and gasoline is practically free so renting a vehicle would be advisable.

There are regular flights to most of the largest cities around KSA and tickets are easy to obtain outside the peak seasons.

Shukran Laylah!

*Photo credit: Laylah

Previous Interviews In The ‘Travel With Kids’ Series: 

Sarah from New Zealand

Toni from Manila

The Mad Momma from Delhi

Maid In Malaysia from Kuala Lumpur

Lakshmi from Hyderabad

Sunayana from Kolkata

Sunita from Pune

Anuradha from Mumbai

Artnavy from Bengaluru

Leonny from Singapore 

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