ACHTUNG, BEER LOVERS!
Not everyone has the time and money to travel to Munich for the annual tradition of Oktoberfest. But you don't need to book a flight to Germany to celebrate one of fall's most epic celebrations. Here are some of the best Oktoberfests right here in the U.S. Proust!
Dubbed Michigan's "Little Bavaria," Frankenmuth is home to the first Oktoberfest in the U.S. to operate with the official blessing of the original Oktoberfest in Munich. From Sept. 20-23, the Bavarian-styled town along the Cass River will put its German heritage and culture on display with authentic German music, traditional events like an always popular Wiener dog race with 50-100 participating dachshunds, food, and lots of Hofbräuhaus München beer.
The largest Oktoberfest celebration in the country, Oktoberfest Zinzinnati, takes over Cincinnati's riverfront with more than half a million attendees annually. The three-day event (Sept. 21-23) will kick off with the "Running of the Wieners" with dachshunds sporting hot dog bun costumes. Watch the Gemütlichkeit (Goodwill) Games — a beer stein race and barrel roll — or attempt to break the "World's Largest Chicken Dance" Guinness record the festival set back in 1994 with 48,000 participants. Grab German-brewed beers like Erdinger, Warsteiner, and Weihenstephan, and a regional favorite, goetta — a German-inspired sausage combining pork, beef, and steel-cut oats — served in a variety of ways.
The massive Denver Oktoberfest draws more than 350,000 revelers to its two-weekend, admission-free festival (Sept. 21-23 and 28-30). Come thirsty as it's one of the largest beer fests in the country based on beer consumption. There are copious amounts of Oktoberfest brews — both classic German and craft beers on tap. Set up in the neighborhood surrounding Coors Field, the celebration also features keg bowling, stein hoisting, and bratwurst eating competitions, and happy hour with 2-for-1 steins of the official Oktoberfest brew.
Following the collapse of the local logging industry, the town of Leavenworth, Washington was rebuilt into a picture-perfect Alpine village — complete with Bavarian-themed gas stations. Just two hours outside of Seattle, the legit German town of 2,000 people swells to more than 10,000 for its annual Oktoberfest, which spans three weekends (Oct. 5-6, 12-13 and 19-20) with multiple venues for traditional German food and beers as well as bands and dancers imported from Germany. Against the backdrop of the snow-capped Cascade Mountains, lederhosen-clad attendees can nosh on bratwurst and guzzle cold brews after the traditional parade and keg tapping every Saturday.
After an action-packed summer of festivals, Milwaukee takes just a few weeks to recover before hosting a slew of fall events, including a free and family-friendly Oktoberfest (Oct. 5-7) that benefits local charities. Starting with the ceremonial keg tapping (with free beer), entertainment highlights include live polka music, a "Das Boot Bar Tour," a bags (or traditional corn hole) tournament with a $1,000 grand prize, and the Miss Oktoberfest competition judged on contestants' yodeling, stein-hoisting, and beer-chugging talents.
Deep in the heart of Texas, you'll find many towns in the Lone Star State celebrate their German heritage with an annual Oktoberfest. But the state's capital city has one of the best up-and-coming fests, AustOberfest, organized by Austin's Saengerrunde, the city's oldest singing society founded in 1879. Tickets to the fest (Sept. 29) include unlimited German-style sausage from some of Central Texas' best meat purveyors, Texas German Bier tastings, bowling, and live music.
Over a quarter of a million people attend the Nashville Oktoberfest, Music City's oldest annual festival (Oct. 11-14). Spanning 10 city blocks, the fest has been taking over the city's Germantown neighborhood since 1980. There's plenty of German suds with draft beer imported directly from Munich, including Paulaner and Hacker-Pschorr, at nine beer stations and at the beer garden pouring 18 different styles of craft and European beers from various breweries. Event highlights include a massive parade through downtown, Tennessee's second largest 5K race, and the world's longest beer slip 'n' slide.
NEW ULM OKTOBERFEST
New Ulm, Minnesota
A popular event for over thirty years, New Ulm's Oktoberfest (Oct. 5-6 and 12-13) is a two-weekend party sprawled across four different venues (all connected via free shuttle), including Schell Brewing Co., one of the oldest family-owned breweries in the nation that also specializes in German-style lagers. Originally founded by German immigrants, the small town has one of the most authentic-feeling fests in the country. Festivities include German-style polka, horse-drawn trolley rides, public tours of local attractions, and the 45-foot-tall musical glockenspiel clock tower.
Deadwood, South Dakota
Celebrate Oktoberfest in the Wild West at the Deadwood Oktoberfest (Oct. 4-6). With live music and dancing at the PolkaFest, bratwurst giveaways, beer and wine and cheese tastings, a German cook-off, and festivities like the family-friendly "Wiener Dog Races," Tour de Oktoberfest games, and the Beer Barrel Games, the fest knows how to put on a traditional German-style party with flare.
MUNICH ON THE EAST RIVER
Zum Schneider, the original Bavarian Bierhaus in New York City, hosts Munich on the East River (Sept. 28-Oct.7), setting up a giant beer tent — outfitted with traditional furniture and an Oompah band stage — along the water to celebrate at what they deem the city's largest Oktoberfest. Revelers can eat Wiesn-Hendl and Haxn (Oktoberfest roast chicken and pork shank), Weisswurst, and giant pretzels, and wash it all down with steins of HB Traunstein Festbier or Andechs Festbier (restaurant exclusives). Strongman competitions and German- and English-speaking staff dressed in dirndl and lederhosen round out the experience.
LINDE OKTOBERFEST TULSA
Celebrating 40 years, the Linde Oktoberfest Tulsa (Oct. 18-21) draws crowds of Oklahomans with its Midwest country fair and German fest flair. The line-up includes everything from polka dancers to magicians, carnival rides for kids to beer pong tournaments for adults, traditional German bands flown in from the motherland to local acts. Vendors sell Bavarian cheesecake, schnitzel, and smoked turkey legs, and huge, Munich-inspired tents pour more than 50 different kinds of beers.
Salt Lake City
Who would have thought a 3-month-long Oktoberfest would be a Utah tradition? The highly anticipated Snowbird Oktoberfest takes place every Saturday and Sunday from August to October (Aug. 18-Oct. 21). Since its start in 1973, the admission-free cultural event just outside of Salt Lake City attracts more than 60,000 visitors annually, making it one of Utah's largest fests. Among the biergartens with traditional German-style beers and those made by Utah breweries (even one that makes Snowbird Dunkelweiss), food stations with apple strudel and spaetzle, and music stages, you'll find entertainment like the Strongman Hammer Contest and alphorn performers.
ALPINE VILLAGE OKTOBERFEST
The oldest and largest Oktoberfest in Southern California, Alpine Village Oktoberfest (Sept. 7-Oct. 27), has been running since 1968. Each fall, the celebration at Alpine Village — an authentic German restaurant and market — features more than 100 craft beers from over 40 breweries, and German staples like bratwurst, schnitzel, and sauerkraut. Popular Bavarian activities include performances by Oom Pah Pah party bands from Germany, sing-a-longs, a chicken dance every hour, a yodeling competition, and pretzel-eating and beer stein-holding contests. Sundays focus on family entertainment with activities ranging from German American Heritage celebrations to First Responder Appreciation.
OKTOBERFEST BY THE BAY
On San Francisco's Pier 48, Oktoberfest by the Bay (Sept. 21-23) attendees can celebrate their German heritage with a scenic bay view. The famed three-day festival keeps spirits alive with nonstop music, singing, and dancing to a packed oompah music bill. The headlining Chico Bavarian Band, a 21-piece traditional Blaskapelle (brass band) from Northern California — plus an endless supply of beer — set the tone for revelers in cheery lederhosen swigging from overflowing steins. This fest is 21-and-over during the evening hours, but kids can "polka down" during the day.
MOUNT ANGEL OKTOBERFEST
Mount Angel, Oregon
Just south of Portland, Oregonians have been commemorating the fall harvest in German style at the Mount Angel Oktoberfest (Sept. 13-16) since the 1960s. It might be one of the lesser-known Oktoberfests in the nation, but the small town settled primarily by Bavarian immigrants in the 1800s attracts more than 450,000 people to the Northwest over the four-day period. Take a break from beer sampling for the car show, the von Trapp Family Singers, and a visit to the Die Fruchtsäule Harvest Monument.
READING LIEDERKRANZ OKTOBERFEST
The Reading Liederkranz Oktoberfest (Oct. 3-7) in Pennsylvania honors its German heritage with traditional cuisine, brews, live music, and a roving ventriloquist and magic shows for all ages. Quench your thirst with German beers at the biergarten and satisfy your appetite with German fare at this time-honored festival.
HOFBRAUHAUS LAS VEGAS OKTOBERFEST
We don't need to tell you Las Vegas knows how to party. Hofbräuhaus Las Vegas hosts a lively Oktoberfest (Sept. 14-Oct. 31) with celebrity keg tappings (think stars like Siegfried and Roy) and nightly live entertainment. But Oktoberfest isn't just about the beer, though there's plenty of it for stein-hoisting marathons — all brewed according to original recipes handed down by the Duke of Bavaria over 400 years ago. Taverns and "eating houses" like the original Hofbräuhaus in Munich were known for their delicious Bavarian fare before the celebration even had its own beer. That's why the exact replica of the world-famous Munich beer hall is serving up special Oktoberfest dishes daily — from crispy pork shanks to a three-tiered tower of smoked Bavarian meats.
CENTRAL FLORIDA OKTOBERFEST
The German American Society of Central Florida hosts the "most authentic Oktoberfest celebration in Central Florida." The two-weekend Central Florida Oktoberfest (Oct. 5-6 and 26-27) features a flag parade, entertainment from German bands and Alpenrose Schuhplattler dancers, face painting for kids, home-cooked German food, and a large outdoor Bavarian biergarten, of course.