I often hear people complaining or boredom and lack of activities in KSA, especially here in conservative Riyadh.
Yet I for some reason am always short of time to do things!
Of course it depends alot on yourself, how active you are in trying to find things to do. It IS more difficult here, but it doesnt mean that theres "nothing to do".
I ask these people, well what did you use to do back home on your freetime then? Often they'd reply: go to cafes, bars or nightclubs, restaurants, friends homes,the gym, shopping..Well you can do all of that here too! Although I'm not going to publicly post where all these activities might be, by asking around you will find quite easily if you're an expat and interested in some of those activities ;)
As an expat in KSA you will have more variety of activities than locals, depending on if you're male/female. By more variety I mean expats can get into all western compounds, that have all kind of activities ranging from dance classes, language courses, theme days for families, rugby or soccer matches, concerts, etc etc. Embassies also arrange concerts, art exhibitions, national days, and parties. The problem is you must know someone to get into these places, and security is high of course.
As for cafeterias and restaurants, the choices are endless, and that will be a topic on its own.I will only mention my favorites: Brazilian restaurant Il Terazzo in hotel Faisalia, outside terrace with open oven bbq overlooking Faisalia tower!Or Sitta shams -the ultimate arabic food experience, the restaurant is huge and even has its own parkinghall and elevators. Romaizan is the best the compound restaurant which offers tasty food and drinks in relaxed atmosphere. Dont miss having "High Tea" at the Faisaliah tower Globe. Expats often take off their abayas and the atmosphere is relaxed. Upstairs is the more intimate Cigar Lounge for romantic evenings :)
the shooting range at Dirab Golf club
For men there is numerous terraces you can sit outside and enjoy the warm evenings. Unfortunately at the moment I dont know of any that allow women to sit outside..they are all single male sections :( Although I have on couple of occasions spotted some women sitting with their husbands.
EDIT: 3rd floor Centria mall Lenotre cafe has an outside sitting mixed sitting area!
Theres plenty of male only gyms all around town, but female only is a bit more difficult to find, but they do exist. There is one in Almultaka center, Yibreen spa, Almanahil inside DQ (diplomatic quarters)to name a few. There's also a walking/ running track that goes around the DQ.
If you want to start golfing there are many good places to get started and have lessons like the Intercontinental right in middle of the city has a golf course. Also Riyadh golf club and Dirab golf club have courses, the Arizona compound has their own course too! Dirab also has polo and horsebackriding. It requires membership though..
Females are allowed to golf and even drive golf carts in saudi :)
There are places just outside Riyadh about 20-30 min drive away where you can rent quadbikes for couple hours and drive on the dunes. Yes women can drive them too :) My favorite is Thumamah area, on weekdays its almost empty, you can have the vast desert to yourself, but dont get lost!Weekends it packed with young saudi men, who sometimes get a little too carried away when they see western women driving around. On the way to Thumamah you can pass by the camel souq and haggle on one of the 1,000000 Saudi riyal camels.
Then theres alot of historical sites to explore around Riyadh, like the ancient City of Old Diriyah. Its a historically interesting site to visit including the famous Salwa palace. During 1745, a strong Islamic reform movement took place over here. Besides this in the past the old city of Diriyah was also considered to be the largest in Arabian Peninsula. However, in the first part of 19th century Turks destroyed this city and afterwards Riyadh captured it. Walk amongst the ruins of mud and brick built houses, palaces bath houses and mosques. Best visited in cooler months.
And when it comes to shopping, new shopping malls seem to be sprouting like mushrooms after the rain :D
One of the newest is Riyadh Galleria which has a nice little river and fountains among cafeterias in the middle.
Most of the biggest malls (Hayat, Granada, Faisalia, Riyadh galleria) have huge entertainment areas for children, the noise is overwhelming though!Alot of families will leave the children there with nannys or their older children to look after while they go shopping. Some even have iceskating rinks and rollercoasters!
For a very different experience visit the huge sheesha cafes on Damman highway. The biggest one is over 10000 sqm and fits 2000 people at a time!if you're a football fan go on a match day and the place will be packed and the atmosphere is fun and welcoming. This activity is mainly for males, but they do have family sections also