There’s no question that the city of Dubai is next-level when it comes to extravagance. The world’s biggest mall, tallest building, highest hotel, and fastest zip line are just a few of the record-breaking attractions that keep visitors flocking to the Middle Eastern oasis year after year. However, there’s more to the futuristic playground than over the top, well, everything.

If you look past the well-beaten social media path, there’s actually so much to discover about Dubai. From local artists and sneaker aficionados to a budding culinary scene and surreal performances that take entertainment to new heights, if you think you know all there is to know about the United Arab Emirates’ most popular city, think again.

Whether you’re going for the first time or returning for a new adventure, we’re about to give you an insider’s look at how you can experience a side to Dubai you never knew existed, and enjoy every single second of it. Yalla Habibi, let’s go get lost!

A Little City

With over 600 hotels and resorts, it can be hard to decide where to stay during your visit. The best way to start off your trip is to head straight to the financial hub of the city, Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) and check into the hip and trendy Four Seasons Hotel DIFC. In addition to being an urban hotspot with the popular Luna Sky Bar, delicious Mina Brasserie and IG famous rooftop glass-enclosed pool, the hotel is steps away from world-class art galleries like Sotheby’s and Cuadro, and a short Uber away from popular tourist sites.

Where The Creatives Play

You might not be able to tell, but behind all the glitz and glamour there is a really unique and thriving creative scene in Dubai. Skip the usual tourist haunts and spend the day being inspired in the cultural district of the city, Alserkal Avenue. Full of contemporary art galleries, non-profit organizations, and homegrown businesses, Alserkal Avenue is home to a vibrant community of performers, artists, designers, and artisans who have formed an essential platform for the development of the creative industries in the United Arab Emirates.

Sneakerheads can add to their collection at The Good Life, while classic car lovers can reminisce at Nostalgia Classic Cars Gallery. Marvel at amazing North African Art at Elmarsa Gallery or calligraphic compositions at El Seed Studio. Need a little snack, taste chocolate from all over the world (and buy a few to take home) at Mirzam Chocolate Makers. And that’s just a taste of what Alserkal has to offer.

The Perfect Frame

Think about it, less than 50 years ago the United Arab Emirates as we know it today, did not exist. Traditionally nomadic, Emirati people moved around the deserts of the Middle East for generations before finally settling in one area and deciding to come together to form one nation on December 2, 1972. For many visitors to Dubai, it is hard to believe that anything other than the awe-inspiring region we now know ever existed, but if you want to get a glimpse into the city’s past, present and future, then you need to visit the Dubai Frame.

Loading the player...

Nearly 500 feet high and built with glittering, gold-colored stainless steel covers, which incorporates a ring design inspired by the Expo 2020 Dubai logo (FYI…you want to be in Dubai for the expo. Book now!), the Dubai Frame is a cultural landmark that ‘frames’ views of Old and New Dubai, while also acting as a bridge between the city’s past, present, and future.

A Little Sun

Once you’re done with the hustle and bustle of the city, head to the picturesque Four Seasons Jumeirah Beach for a seaside escape. Spend your remaining time in the area waking up to healthy vegan breakfasts in The Pearl Courtyard (Tip: Ask for the curry tofu “eggs”), letting the stress melt away with a rose quartz crystal facial at the spa, indulging in the ridiculously divine cuisine at Sea Fu (P.S. their Saturday brunch is to die for) and taking in the iconic Dubai skyline at the rooftop Mercury Lounge.

See By Sea

Hop-on, hop-off bus tours are cool, but if you want to experience Dubai from another angle, and enjoy some fast-paced water fun in the process, then taking a scenic boat tour with HERO OdySea is a must. The tour was designed for the adventurous types who prefer to sightsee Dubai’s famous coastline in a more exciting way. Similar to a jetski adventure, but much safer (OdySea boats are untippable), guests get to be captain of their own ship for 90-minutes as they make stops at sights like the Burj Al Arab, Kite Beach, and Atlantis, The Palm.

Fill Your Belly

The foodie scene in Dubai is exploding. As if there weren’t already enough amazing places to dine, new culinary experiences are popping up all over the city. If you’re looking for charming vibes and authentic Emirati cuisine, The Arabian Tea House in the Bur Dubai section of the city is what you need. If you want a taste of Greece in the Middle East, head to Mythos Kouzina & Grill (voted one of the best restaurants in Dubai) and sip on Zeus Juice with Greek brandy until your heart’s content. Looking for something a bit healthier? Veganity is the newest foodie hotspot and in true Dubai fashion, it is the world’s largest vegan restaurant serving over 200 dishes inspired by global cuisines.

It’s Showtime

Skip a late night at the bars and clubs, and opt for a more refined and mesmerizing experience. Located in Al Habtoor City, the La Perle by Dragone is the region’s first permanent show and features immersive, artistic performances inspired by Dubai’s rich culture. The tailor-made aqua theatre fills and drains in seconds as artists perform mind-blowing stunts to tell stories of love, trust, friendship and more. It is definitely a must-see before you leave the city.

And there you have it, an authentic Dubai getaway that you won’t find anywhere else but here at ESSENCE. Before you book your next Emirates escape, make sure you take notes from our exclusive guide, so you can get lost on the adventure of a lifetime.