So, if you really love beer, mid-September brings about visions of bratwurst, potato salad, blue and white banners, and beer. Yes, it’s Oktoberfest time, and it’s our favorite celebration of the year.
Oktoberfest originated in the Bavarian city of Munich in 1810. It was a celebration of the marriage of King Louis I. This wedding celebration was combined, in years after, with the state agricultural fair, showcasing the region’s harvests and animal products.
It was in 1818 that the food and beer that we associate with Oktoberfest were introduced to the celebration.
Today, Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany is a lot different from the mild-mannered wedding celebration from 200 years ago.
Today, it is a two-week event that has its own festival grounds, tents (OK, they’re really more like permanent buildings now) that feature each of Munich’s breweries, a carnival and even a parade. It is truly an experience of a lifetime.
Jason and I celebrated our nuptials with a honeymoon to Munich and Oktoberfest. It is a trip that we look back on fondly, and are ready to experience again. To be fair, we actually planned our wedding around Oktoberfest.
As much as we would love to return to Germany and celebrate another Oktoberfest, it really isn’t a practical option for every year. And, frankly, thanks to COVID-19, it may be a while before many of us want to get on an airplane again.
That doesn’t mean however, you can’t enjoy a great Oktoberfest experience, right here at home. While 2020 has seen the cancelation of most of our favorite beer related festivals, Oktoberfest included, it’s never too soon to start planning for next year.
So, here’s our list of U.S. Oktoberfest celebrations, that we think give you a pretty darn authentic experience, without the big travel costs.
U.S. Oktoberfest Celebrations That We Love
I’m going to start close to home, because I can.
The Denver Oktoberfest is one of the largest in the country. It hosts nearly 350,000 individuals, and is a fitting pairing to the Great American Beer Festival.
Of course, you really can’t go wrong with Oktoberfest celebrations in the “Napa Valley” of beer, right? While not as traditional as some Oktoberfest celebrations, if it’s beer that you’re into, and you’re looking to enjoy both traditional and new beer options, Denver is your spot.
Some things to look for when you visit the Denver Oktoberfest? Beer imported directly from Germany is a huge winner. You’ll get Spaten and Franziskaner beer at this Oktoberfest.
You can also enjoy German Style beers from some of the best craft breweries in the country.
This Oktoberfest also has a stein hoisting competition and a bratwurst eating contest. There’s also plenty of traditional German tunes to get you in the mood, but also tons of live bands featuring a variety of music genres.
I’m going to tell you that if you want a German approved, American Oktoberfest, the Frankenmuth Oktoberfest is a must for your bucket list.
The Oktoberfest celebration in this Michigan community is so authentic that it is the only one in the US that has actually been sanctioned by the Mayor of Munich, Germany.
For a bit of history, Frankenmuth was established in 1845 as a Bavarian Lutheran mission colony. Many refer to the town as “Little Bavaria” and it certainly lives up to its namesake, especially when it comes to Oktoberfest traditions.
Lederhosen and dirndl abound in this Oktoberfest celebration. As does the traditional German beer and food. This celebration features local brews and beer imported from Germany for the occasion. You’ll enjoy Hofbräuhaus and München beer in the beer garden.
A long German history makes Fredericksburg, TX an almost perfect place to enjoy Oktoberfest. Fredericksberg was founded in 1846 by German settlers and is the center of German heritage in Texas.
Like many of the communities that hold Oktoberfest celebrations, Fredericksberg is home to year-round traditions and experiences that celebrate their German heritage. Oktoberfest, is the culmination of these traditions.
In Fredericksburg, look for plenty of beer imported from Germany, traditional German food favorites like pfeffernusse, flammkuchen and mettwurst. You’ll also find American festival staples like funnel cakes, pickle on a stick and corn dogs.
When it comes to activities, do stick around for the “OkTubaFest”, a performance of traditional German music performed by a band of Tubas. It sounds silly, but it’s not to be missed!
We’re staying in the south with our next Oktoberfest. The Linde Oktoberfest in Tulsa, OK is another that is a perfect mix of traditional German culture, with some fun American traditions tossed in.
We found that this Oktoberfest was like a nice, midwestern, county fair that is heavy on the German delights. There is, of course, plenty of German food, beer and oompah bands. You’ll also find carnival rides, and typical fair foods.
Things not to be missed in Tulsa? Check out the tug of war competitions and the “MassKrug Carry”, a race where competitors carry 35 pounds of beer through an obstacle course.
This Oktoberfest also has its own Dachshund races for extra fun.
Paying homage to its German heritage, the Cincinnati, OH Oktoberfest, also called ‘Zinxinnatti’ this is the largest Oktoberfest celebration in the United States and the second largest Oktoberfest in the world.
Annually, around 500,000 people come to Cincinnati to celebrate the Bavarian tradition of beer, food and polka.
Zinzinnati is about all things German. You’ll find plenty of German foods, German music, and let’s not forget about German Beer. This Oktoberfest highlights Erdinger, Warstiner and Weihenstephan imported directly from Germany. You can also enjoy Sam Adams Oktoberfest brew, for a taste closer to home.
We think that this Oktoberfest has some of the most entertaining activities, of all the Oktoberfests in the US. Don’t miss the Running of the Wieners, a race featuring 100 daschund dogs dressed in hot dog costumes.
The Zinzinnati Oktoberfest also holds the record for the largest chicken dance, according to the Guinness Book of Records.
Leavenworth, is as close to a Bavarian village in the Alps that you can get, without leaving the United States. This small town sits with the Cascade Mountains in the background.
It is peaceful and quaint most of the year. However, come late September, this community comes to life, ready to showcase its German heritage.
While many Oktoberfest celebrations in the U.S. are a weekend, or four or five days, Leavenworth’s Oktoberfest is three weekends of German culture, spread out from the end of September to mid-October.
We find that the mix of German culture and Americana is done right at the Leavenworth Oktoberfest. If you want the best that Germany offers, you’ll find plenty of beer, bratwurst and pretzels.
If you’re just not a fan of German fare, the Leavenworth Oktoberfest also has amazing barbeque including turkey legs, ribs and pulled pork.
Some Final Thoughts and FAQs
What should you wear to an Oktoberfest in the US?
If you’ve already invested in Lederhosen and dirndl, don’t be afraid to don them at most US Oktoberfests.
The exception? The Denver Oktoberfest is pretty modern, and you won’t find many folks in their Lederhosen. If you don’t have traditional Bavarian garb, our suggestion is to be comfortable.
Good walking shoes are a must, and because many Oktoberfest celebrations occur during the early fall, do make sure you have a jacket, just in case.
What about Kids at Oktoberfest?
Oktoberfest in Germany is a family affair, and many Oktoberfest celebrations here in the United States are, as well. Do your research before you drag your kiddos with.
If you’re into the beer scene, you may find that some Oktoberfests don’t allow kids into the beer gardens. This can be a damper on your celebration.
However, many affairs are super family friendly and feature activities for the whole family.
Grab an Uber…
…or some other type of ride service. We like the Munich Oktoberfest because it has its own subway station. We never had to drive through Munich.
With that said, if you’re celebrating here at home, and want to be safe while also enjoying the experience, leave the car at home. Look for lodging near the festival that you can walk to, or hire a taxi, rideshare, or take public transit.
There is nothing that would ruin your Oktoberfest experience quicker than a DUI.
We love beer, and we love to indulge, but do so safely. We always want our friends to be around for another adventure. Please be safe in your consumption, and make sure that you aren’t putting yourself in a situation you can’t manage.
Moderate your beer consumption so you can get back to your hotel room, or home without issue, and so that you can actually remember your experience.
There you have it. Our suggestions for the best Oktoberfest celebrations in the United States.
Like you, we are looking forward to our next adventures, when traveling is safe, and our favorite festivals return.
Until then, we’ll look back fondly on our Oktoberfest adventures of years past, and enjoy a German brew (or two) in the comfort of our home.