Beer gardens got their start in 16th-century Germany, and Bavaria beckons when fall comes and Oktoberfest ramps up. But you don't have to travel overseas to find big outdoor patios, long communal tables, good food, and superb beer. Here are some great beer gardens across the United States with specials that save patrons a buck or two.
VBGB serves 30 types of craft beer and imports on a huge patio. A "frost rail," a 5-inch block of ice, runs the length of the bar -- perfect for keeping those brews cold. The restaurant has weekly specials (including $3 craft beer on Tuesday) and often posts deals on its social media accounts.
Staten Island, NY
Killmeyer's has been around a long time -- it was already in business when Nicolas Killmeyer bought it (and changed its name) around 1855. In addition to a traditional restaurant and live entertainment, there's a pretty awesome beer garden. It boasts some weekly specials and happy hour deals from 4 to 7 p.m. on weekdays, such as $5 bratwurst hoagies.
St. Louis, MO
Grant's Farm (free admission; $12 for parking) was bought by the Busch family -- as in Anheuser-Busch -- from former president Ulysses S. Grant. It has rides, baby goats to feed, and other children's attractions for a small fee, but also a courtyard beer garden. Guests of age can sample Anheuser-Busch products for free with lunch.
Greenwood Park is a family-friendly beer garden built out of an old gas station and mechanic shop. It boasts 60 beer lines, bocce ball courts, and a menu with traditional bar fare as well as vegetarian and vegan options. Drinks are $2 off during happy hours from noon to 7 p.m.
St. Petersburg, FL
The legendary Bavarian beer garden and restaurant in Munich, Germany, has lent its name to about a half-dozen franchises stateside. Hofbräuhaus St. Petersburg offers daily live entertainment and classic German fare. There are plenty of $5 happy hour specials, including select shots, house wines, and half-liter beers.
Picnic-table-style outdoor seating is one of the allures of Philadelphia's Frankford Hall. The restaurant, in a renovated industrial space featuring reclaimed materials and exposed brick walls, offers classics including sausages, spätzle, and $7 German drafts. Revelers can munch on a $4.50 Bavarian pretzel around fire pits between games at the free ping-pong table.
The Rathskeller in downtown Indianapolis is known for live music as well as for its Bavarian-style food and brews. There's a rotating menu of lunch specials that can help visitors save a few bucks while chowing down. The historic building's beer garden has its own walk-up bar for beer and pub food.
Estabrook is a truly public beer garden -- it's within Milwaukee's Estabrook Park near a waterfall, and managers say visitors arrive to enjoy imported German beers by foot, bike, car, kayak, and canoe. There's food for purchase, but customers can also bring their own food and soft drinks.
Handlebar Tempe, touted as a bike-friendly beer garden, offers 24 beers on draft plus a huge selection of can, bomber, and bottle options. Along with loads of specials there are happy hours, Whiskey Tuesdays, and Jameson Thursdays, when shots are two for the price of one from 10 p.m. to close. They take drinking seriously here -- but there are hand-cut fries, burgers, freshly baked pretzels, and local sausages to nosh on, too.
Mountain View and Cupertino, CA
Steins Beer Garden & Restaurant is a modern American take on the traditional German biergarten. It has 31 craft and import beers on tap and a comfort-food menu. Happy hours make this high-end spot especially affordable, but diners who sample the ghost pepper hot sauce might be happy to pay any price for a beer to put out its fire; the restaurant makes you sign a waiver to try it.
Long Island City, NY
This massive beer garden and entertainment space serves patrons who love sports, live music, or just good beer. Studio Square has several specials throughout the week. Happy hour lasts from opening to 7 p.m., offering $4 tap beers and $4 sangria. On Wednesdays, ladies can grab $4 drinks from 7 p.m. to closing. Military, EMTs, police, and other municipal employees get 20 percent off all regular-price drinks.
At the Short North Pint House, revelers can order what the pub calls a Gusto -- a respectable 32-ounce beer for $10 -- or the $6 beer sampler, which includes three beers from the draft list. A pretty sweet happy hour offers patrons half off selected food and drinks, with options changing daily.
Banger's Sausage House & Beer Garden is just what it sounds like: a satisfying mix of sausage and beer. It cranks out more than 2,000 pounds of sausage every week, stages live music two to three times a week, and even has a dog park (where pets can eat dog-friendly sausages). Specials include Sunday's Manmosa -- basically a whole bottle of champagne in a giant mug with a splash of juice.