With its stunning skyscrapers, rich culture, and lively nightlife scene, Dubai is a destination that should be on everyone's bucket list. Dubbed the "City of Gold," the Middle Eastern destination lives up to its reputation for opulence and over-the-top experiences. The modern metropolis is constantly evolving, with new attractions and emerging destinations to offer visitors the ultimate travel experience.

We headed to the United Arab Emirates to visit Dubai, and now we understand why it's such a sought-after location. Here's our guide on the best places to eat, stay, and play to add to your itinerary. 

Where to Stay

Whether you're interested in exploring the vast desert, relaxing on the beach or experiencing the local cuisine, location is everything. We opted to stay at the Marriott Resort Palm Jumeirah, Dubai, which is the first Marriott Hotels resort in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The guestrooms and suites have private balconies, floor-to-ceiling ocean views and thoughtful amenities, such as pillow menus, mood lighting, and spacious bathrooms.

The Palm Jumeirah is a luxurious oasis along the island's golden West Beach. You can relax in a cabana on the white sand beach or jump in the pool and enjoy the swim-up bar. For the ultimate relaxation, book an appointment at the Saray Spa and leave extra time to enjoy the thermal suite complete with sauna, steam room and relaxation lounge.

Beach view from Marriott Resort Palm Jumeirah, Dubai. Image: courtesy of Marriott Resort Palm Jumeirah, Dubai.

Where to Eat

The food scene in Dubai is renowned for its variety, with both international and regional cuisine on offer. From light bites to steakhouse offerings, the bars and restaurants on the property provide an eclectic mix of dishes and beverages from around the world with influences from Japan, Peru, Italy, Korea and the Levant.

We started our day at Levantera with a breakfast buffet with popular offerings from all over the world. The restaurant is an all-day dining venue with great Mediterranean-inspired menu items using produce sourced from local farms.

One of the many dinner highlights includes Cucina, an Italian trattoria. There is even a pasta-making room on-site, so the pasta is fresh and delicious. Leave room for dessert; the ice cream parlor Gelateria by Cucina offers deliciously creamy gelato flavors. The standout was the unexpected crowd-pleaser—gorgonzola with balsamic ice cream. 

Another favorite spot, Above Eleven, is an open-air rooftop with panoramic views. Here the cocktail menu is a curation of specialty drinks, including flavors and notes of pink yuzu, lotus root, lemongrass, and handcrafted Peruvian bitters. Sip and savor these delicious concoctions while taking in the stunning views of Dubai's skyline and dancing to live DJ sets.

Tiramisu from Cucina. Image: courtesy of Marriott Resort Palm Jumeirah, Dubai.

What to do

Dubai is a city that offers a variety of activities for travelers of all interests. Here are a few must-do things that you ought to include on your agenda.

If you're going to really do this luxe destination right, you'll need a yacht excursion. Several of Dubai's most magnificent skyscrapers can be seen in the man-made canal city known as the Dubai Marina. We embarked on a stunning cruise along Dubai's iconic coastline, departing from the Dubai Marina. As we set sail, we were treated to a mesmerizing sunset that painted the sky with vibrant hues, creating Instagram-worthy moments.

For a more high-octane experience, head to the desert for a day in the dunes. Dune-bashing, sandboarding and camel riding are just a few of the tours that are offered to take you on an adventure through the desert. Some tours last all day and include a BBQ meal in the desert as well as a live performance by fire dancers and belly dancers.  

Of course, no vacation is complete without a shopping trip, and that is especially true in Dubai. A wide variety of upscale retail malls can be found across the city, but the Dubai Mall—one of the biggest malls in the world—stands out. You can shop for high-end designer brands, as well as traditional Middle Eastern souvenirs and gold jewelry. It even includes a theme park, an aquarium, and the Dubai Opera. Additionally, it offers spectacular views of the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Fountain.

Yachting on the Dubai Marina. Image: ASMR for Getty Images.