A Roadmap of The Dinah Shore and Palm Springs for First Timers

By Emelina Minero

Club Skirts Dinah Shore Weekend

Club Skirts Dinah Shore Weekend

Club Skirts Dinah Shore Weekend, the largest queer female party and music festival in the world, bringing 20,000 queer women from around the world to Palm Springs, CA, The Dinah’s official host city, is known for its debauchery, partying and drinking. That is an accurate description of The Dinah Shore, but it’s not the only description. For first-timers, we’re going to introduce you to the other aspects of The Dinah, give you a rundown on how to get the most out of your Dinah Shore experience and how to get the most out of Palm Springs.

We ourselves are first timers to The Dinah Shore, and this will be our second time in Palm Springs. We asked a lot of women who have gone to The Dinah before, most who you can meet at The Dinah Film Festival or the Celebrity Poker tournament, about their experience, their advice and what we could expect.

Advice and Experiences from Past Dinah Goers

Nicole Pacent – Actress in Anyone But Me, I Hate Tommy Finch & She4Me

Nicole PacentI would say stay hydrated, number one. Number two, everyone is getting so nervous, and everyone always does every year, myself included. It’s so ridiculous. Don’t worry so much about being on the Dinah diet. Ultimately, nobody really cares, and there are people of all shapes and sizes who go. And the other thing is be open to meeting people. That is huge. Don’t feel like you have to hang with your friends. Really hang with whoever you want to hang with. You just always end up meeting people and going to random house parties and room parties. It’s a blast. Just be open and have fun (nicolepacent.com).

Tracy Ryerson – TV Producer, Model, Actress in Kiss Her I’m Famous

Tracy Ryerson

I’ve had many different experiences there. I went with my girlfriend once. I went alone once, and then I went one year with my first girlfriend.

Being with my first girlfriend was great because I had just come out. I didn’t know I was gay, and I was like, Oh my god, I’m gay. Let’s go and party. I think it was such a new experience to me, and it was a little bit overwhelming, but I felt safe because I was with this group of friends that I knew very well. And it was awesome to have a place to go and be gay and open because I still had a bunch of questions. Do you hold her hand? Do you not? Where is it safe? Where is it not?

The time I went by myself I was honestly so overwhelmed. I think I got a lot of attention, whether it was wanted or not, and I crawl into a hole when that happens. I like to have fun. I love meeting people, but that year I wasn’t drinking either, and when you add drinks and a lot of other people, and you’re not drinking, you’re on two different playing fields. I just remember that. It was funny. I was looking around, I was like, Oh, my god.

And then last year with [my girlfriend] Stamie was interesting because I was seeing things through her eyes. Her eyes were so big and she was like, “Is that happening in front of me? Are those two girls doing what I think they’re doing? Are they – ?” Mmm hmmm. It was a lot of fun. All three were different experiences, and I think everyone should do it, at least once.

It’s sort of changed a little bit. I think it’s younger girls now. They kind of get a little bit crazier. They don’t have a tolerance for alcohol either. [On Advice,] definitely bring sunscreen. I see a lot of girls that come out and they look like lobsters because they just totally misjudge it and they’re just drinking the whole time.

Bring a camera because you have to remember that. I don’t care if everyone’s like, “What happens in Palm Springs…” No, fuck it. Take pictures, okay. Because you’ll like it ten years later. If there are throw back thursdays, if it still exists, you can post something. Also bring your sense of humor because honestly there’s nothing else better. I have to say Dinah Shore is perfect for a stand-up comedian too. Stamie just loves to sit back and watch (tracyryerson.com).

Christin Mell – Writer, Director, Producer, Co-Founder of TelloFilms, a Lesbian Distribution & Production Company

Christin Mell

Wear sunblock. I think sometimes when you do day drinking by the pool, you might forget to put on the sunblock. So make sure that you apply often so that you don’t burn up. The great thing that I’ve found there [is that] people just talk to strangers. Make sure you have a buddy with you and that you have someone who knows where you are, but there are some really great, lovely people there who you will meet at the pool party, or at the social things. My other piece of advice is definitely get tickets to the film festival because that’s going to be amazing. There are just lesbians everywhere you look, and it’s nice to be in that kind of environment. So I’d just say soak it up, and have fun (tellofilms.com).

Dalila Ali Rajah – Host of Cherry Bomb, Writer, Executive Producer & Actress in Secrets & Toys

Dalila Ali Rajah Outfest Fusion LGBT People hz1Vs-RPoPKl

I love Dinah. Dinah is always magic for me. Every Dinah I’ve ever been to there has been something magical and amazing. It’s a spiritual experience for me whenever I go. You know, which people think is nuts – because most of the time we spend drinking and partying, but I’ve always had some kind of transformational something, or something open up in either myself or my life connected to every year’s Dinah since I’ve been going. I think this is maybe year number seven. I am very grateful.

The first year that I went it was so funny because if I were to be really honest, my old idea of what Dinah was, before I ever went, was not very diverse. I didn’t think it was something that I’d ever be interested in. This was before I went.

I went and I had this whole real like awakening around accepting myself as a bisexual woman. I had been out and open, but I always felt like I wasn’t gay enough for the lesbian women, and the straight people were uncomfortable. At the time I was in an open marriage, and we were completely open about that, and I was completely forthright, and people had judgements about that. I had all these things and fears around it.

And then that year I went to The Dinah some of the first people I met were a polyamorous lesbian couple that were completely awesome and open. They ended up having this suite by accident, and gave me their extra room, instead of me having to stay with my friend with like ten other girls. I had my own suite with a balcony overlooking the jacuzzi and a bar and the TV and all of that stuff, which was really awesome. They were like, we knew somebody was going to need it, and nobody is sleeping there, so just take it.

And over the course of that time I got new acceptance of my after mommy body. I was like, I don’t know if I’m still beautiful, and I kind of came into really being okay with my body after birth. All of that happened that Dinah.

And then every year after that there has been something else just like that, like I got booked for one of my first pilots where I was the lead. It didn’t end up going, but we shot it at The Dinah. Then we started Cherry Bomb and then we started shooting live episodes at Dinah for a few years in a row. It was like this really super special time where my business and career were growing in connection with Dinah. It was really awesome.

[On advice], water, drink lots of water in between the drinking. It will help you stay awake. It will help you make it through to Saturday night and actually make it to the big concert on that night, which is what happens a lot of the times. You drink all day at the pool. You get tired. You pass out, and you wake up and realize that you’ve almost missed all of the concert that you’ve invested to go see, but you can’t because you’re passed out or dehydrated. Don’t do that.

Bring snacks. I usually bring nuts and dried cherries. Dried cherries have melatonin in them, they help you to sleep better and rest better. The almonds have calcium in them and protein, so they help keep you going. Water and snacks are good.

Allow yourself to have fun. It’s kind of like lesbian camp a bit. It’s an opportunity to get to know and meet new people. People tend to be super open and friendly, which is really awesome. Try and plan things that you want to do because it’s easy to lose track of time. So look at the schedule, but give yourself the freedom to be spontaneous because you may find yourself in someone’s hotel room, having a good time, having a good conversation, and those kind of magical moments may not be possible some place else other than The Dinah.

I remember my first year, actually that’s how me and Bethany got close and ended up doing Cherry Bomb. I met her and her girlfriend at the time, and we went and hung out … and listened to some Jill Scott for a minute, and took a break from one of the pool parties and ended up becoming very good friends. Some of my closest friends, I’ve met and built relationships at The Dinah (dalilaalirajah.com).

Tucky Williams – Writer, Actress, Creator of Girl/Girl Scene

Tucky Williams

Every time I’ve gone there, it’s gotten better. I’ve seen some really great shows. In terms of being a musical festival, it’s outstanding. I love The Dinah. That’s one of the highlights of my year, every year. Just have fun, but make sure you get plenty of rest, and don’t drink too much. Wear lots of sunblock. You don’t want to do too much during the day so you can have fun at night, because that’s when it’s really the best (tuckywilliams.com).

Rolla Selbak – Filmmaker, Writer/Director of Three Veils, Creator of Kiss Her I’m Famous

Rolla Selbak

You never forget your first. I was so naïve. It was hilarious. I had no clue just how debauched it all was. At some point, I looked around, and there was a sea of lesbos in my hotel room trying to scream at Leisha Hailey and Uh Huh Her from my patio. I now keep my hotel room locked. Also, Lady Gaga was the music headliner, right before she exploded into what she is today; it was a blast.

Get ready to let it all go, and take lots of photos. You probably won’t remember most of it unless you do. Don’t worry about having a hard schedule. The cool thing is all the hotels and venues are easily within walking distance. Just choose one or two events that you really, really want to go to (like The Dinah Film Festival, hint hint!), and then you can always change your mind throughout the night and walk/stumble/waddle/skip on over to the next party. Although, if you’re indeed waddling, I suggest you go back to the hotel room for a bit.

[My most memorable moment was] hanging out with Julie Goldman and Brandy Howard at the pool party. They are the funniest mo’los ever. I am such a fan grrl, and they know it. [Outside of The Dinah, I’d recommend] brunch at Pinnochio’s. The wait can be long, but you can’t beat a rainbow flag covered Pinnochio in the middle of the desert. Plus, chatting it up with hungover lezzies in the line brings out a lot of juicy Dinah stories.

[About this upcoming Dinah,] Kiss Her I’m Famous season two will be screening at The Dinah Film Festival on Friday, April 4 at 8 pm. The star studded cast and myself will be there at the screening, so come hang out with us! We’ll be walking over to the White Party afterwards. Also, I’ll be bluffing at The Dinah Celesbian Poker tables on Saturday, April 5 to raise money for the Human Rights Campaign along with the Kiss Her I’m Famous cast, so…bring it on (rollaselbak.com)!

Shay Franco-Clausen – Co-Founder of PlayNice Productions, a LGBTQ Event Company

Shay Franco-Clausen

The most memorable moment was meeting new friends from Canada and spending the day with them. Also, convincing the guys at the front desk of our hotel to come into the pool party with Yolanda and I. They didn’t have to pay either. Someone gave us eight free passes, so we gave the other passes to strangers who were at the door debating paying to come in. Pay it forward.

Don’t marathon drink, you will miss out on meeting new people. Enjoy the pools. Being surrounded by so many lesbians, embrace that (playniceproductions.com).

Yolanda Franco-Clausen – Co-Founder of PlayNice Productions, a LGBTQ Event Company

Yolanda Franco-Clausen

My first experience was very different from the rest. Mostly because the first time you go to Dinah you get taken back by the emotions that you go through. The first time, I felt at home because I “fit in.” I was the “norm.” That feeling is indescribable. The entire hotel only took reservations for lesbians. We were all the same and it is something that is unique. My favorite moment would be walking into the hotel and the pool the first day and for the first time. It was an amazing, warming feeling. After the first time, I realized that I wasn’t the norm. I was older, biracial and liked diverse music (playniceproductions.com/the-playnice-board).

Navigating Palm Springs


Downtown Palm Springs

[Palm Springs] is the perfect city to throw this event in – because there is a sincere commitment from the city and from the hotels to not only engage in this weekend, in every way that they can, but they are proud of it, and from a producers point of view, it doesn’t get any better. We’re welcomed here. We’re not only welcomed, we’re wanted. Civically, we have LGBT members in government. We have [wonderful] hotelliers. Aftab [Aftab Dada, the General Manager of the Hilton Palm Springs, the Dinah’s official host hotel], is one of the more amazing hotelliers in town. And I’m really lucky to be able to call him a friend. It was his idea a couple of years ago during a gay pride festival to have all the hotel general managers carry a gay flag [during the parade]. I mean where does this happen? It happened here, and then people started throwing money at it, and it became this big charity. That’s the kind of commitment that the hotel industry and the city has towards the LGBT [community]. I’m really proud to be here because you always want to know that the dollars that you’re creating are going to the right places – that they’re going to places, to cities, to stores, to corporations that care about us, and I can say with 150 percent sincerity that this city is all about that.

– Mariah Hanson, Club Skirts Dinah Shore Weekend Founder on Palm Springs, CA


Pinocchio in the Desert

Pinocchio in the Desert

Pinocchio in the Desert is great for their portions and their prices. It won’t be the best food you’ve ever had, but it’s a great deal, especially their alcohol. They have all-day happy hour. Their well-drinks and martinis range from $2.95 to $7.95, and most are priced at $3.50. They also have bottomless champaign at $3.95. The atmosphere is also great. Like Selbak said, their may be a line, but it’s worth it because a lot of lesbians from The Dinah will be at Pinocchios, and it’s a great place to meet new people and exchange stories.

You’ll be spending about $10 to $15 on the food, which is a great price for the amount of food they give you. If you have a fridge back at your hotel, you can bring back the food for later in the day. They serve Mexican and American food, from breakfast foods, to sandwiches and salads to burritos. Pinocchio in the Desert is in downtown Palm Springs, less than a quarter mile from the Hilton hotel, about a 4 minute walk. They’re open Monday through Sunday from 7:30 am to 2:00 pm.

Casa de Frida

Casa de Frida Cocktail Lounge

Casa de Frida is affordable, and it will be one of the most delicious meals you’ve ever eaten. Their food, their desserts, and especially their mixed drinks – all delicious. The food is a fusion of Mexican, Spanish, French, Cuban, Caribbean and Central/South American dishes, and the restaurant is co-owned by a gay and lesbian couple. The ambiance is relaxed, and the environment is gorgeous. All of the food on their happy hour bar menu, available only in the lounge area, is $6. Also on the happy hour menu, their well drinks are $4, house margaritas are $5, their “Frida” and “Diego” margaritas are $10 and their wine is priced at $6 a glass. Their non-happy hour menu is priced from $9 to $16. Casa de Frida is a little over a half a mile from the Hilton Hotel, about a 15 minute walk. They’re open Tuesday through Sunday from 5 pm to 10 pm. We recommend you eat there at least once while you’re in Palm Springs.

Hamburger Mary’s

Hamburger Mary's

Hamburger Mary’s was founded in San Francisco and is a gay-themed and LGBT-friendly burger restaurant. You can find Hamburger Mary’s in gay-centric neighborhoods, and so it’s no surprise that there’s one in downtown Palm Springs. They’re open Monday through Friday, 11:00 am to closing, Saturday and Sunday, 10:00 am to closing. Happy hour is 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm. They’re food ranges from $9 to $15. Hamburger Mary’s is a little over a half mile from the Hilton hotel, about a 14 minute walk.

For a full list of LGBT-friendly restaurants in Palm Springs, visit Gay Palm Springs.

Grocery Stores

To stalk up on water, food, snacks, sunscreen and alcohol, you can go to Ralphs, which is 1.2 miles from the Hilton, about a 28 minute walk, or Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market, which is .84 miles from the Hilton, about a 20 minute walk. Bringing outside alcohol to The Dinah events isn’t allowed, but you can pre-drink.

Palm Springs Nature

Valley view via tramcar mountaintop destination - photo cred - Emelina Minero

If you’re big into nature, go on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, the world’s largest rotating tramcar, to get a breathtaking view of Coachella Valley and the cliffs of Chino Canyon. There are also a lot of great hiking paths. Be sure to take a jeep and hiking tour through Desert Adventures. The guides are well-versed in the land and the history of Palm Springs and the hiking terrain is gorgeous. We recommend hiking Palm Canyon, within Indian Canyons. It’s a .5 to 15-mile hike through a forested area of palm trees.


Palm Springs Downtown

If you enjoy art, fashion and shopping, you will love the uptown design district, which is filled with chic boutiques, as well as antique, consignment, resale and retro galleries. Every Thursday in downtown Palm Springs is Villagefest where the streets are filled with 200 booths offering live music, art, handcrafted items and unique food.

Furnature-Art Store - photo credit - Emelina Minero

Downtown Palm Springs Boutique

Pamper Yourself

You’re going to be surrounded by 20,000 queer women from around the world, strutting your casual attire or getting polished up for The Dinah White Party, among the other events. You may want to pamper yourself before hitting one of The Dinah events. The Spa Resort Casino, across the street from the Hilton Hotel, has a variety of ways that you can relax and get made up for The Dinah, such as: facials, manicures, pedicures, massages, mud wraps and specialty treatments.


Crystal Fantasy

For a spiritual makeover, we recommend Crystal Fantasy, an enlightenment center in downtown Palm Springs that’s a few blocks away from the Hilton. The owners, Scott and Joy Meredith, have created a safe space and welcoming environment open to all beliefs and backgrounds. They offer an assortment of readings and healing work, from Animal Spirit cards to Tarot cards, from numerology, to astrology to palmistry, from crystal work, to Reiki and more.

If you’re not familiar with energy work, we recommend getting a Reiki treatment with out Reiki Master Earl Nissen before you begin your Dinah festivities. Reiki is an energetic form of healing. From our personal experience with Reiki with Nissen, during the process, there wasn’t any noticeable difference, but once finished, there was a noticeable sense of increased well-being, increased happiness and relaxation and a feeling of being more open to new people and experiences, which is definitely a good state of being to be in when at The Dinah. Crystal Fantasy is open Sunday through Wednesday from 11 am to 7 pm and Thursday through Saturday from 11 am to 9 pm.

Your Dinah Experience Is What You Make It

The biggest thing we got from our Dinah interviews is that your experience at The Dinah will be whatever you want it to be. Whatever you’re looking for, you will attract. If you want a weekend of debauchery, that’s what you’ll find. If you want to network, that’s what will happen. If you want a spiritual experience and a weekend of personal growth, that’s what you’ll get. Your Dinah experience will be what you make it.

To get your tickets to any of The Dinah events, including the film festival, visit www.thedinah.com. For more information on Palm Springs, visit Gay Palm Springs.