In less than a month Munich’s Oktoberfest will kick off with the tapping of a huge wooden keg. Millions of people will flood into the city to consume amazing amounts of sudsy lagers and mountains of roast chickens, sausages, dumplings, and pretzels. But not all of us are going to make it to Munich this year — cheap flights aside.
Luckily, that doesn’t mean we can’t partake in a little bit of Oktoberfest bacchanal right here at home. The US Census Bureau pegs German heritage at 15 percent of our population. That equates to a lot of German culture bleeding into the American tapestry — especially if we’re talking beer. So we dug in to find some of the best Oktoberfest celebrations around the country. These are all worth a visit for a beer or three plus at least one of those giant pretzels.
LEAVENWORTH OKTOBERFEST, WA — Weekends of October 5th/7th, 12th/14th, and 19th/20th
Out in Washington state is a tourist town called Leavenworth. Years ago, the former mining town reinvented itself as a Bavarian tourist spot and hasn’t looked back. The town was almost entirely rebuilt in a postcard-perfect Alpine fashion and has a real feel of being in a small Bavarian village in Germany. Leavenworth’s Oktoberfest gets tens-of-thousands of visitors yearly. And it’s pretty idyllic. There are local breweries, German eateries — it’s a legit Bavarian town nestled high in the Cascade mountains that’ll transport you to an Oktoberfest without leaving America
REVOLUTION OKTOBERFEST CHICAGO, IL — Weekend of September 28th/29th
Revolution Brewing is a Chicago institution. This year, they’ll be taking their beer onto the streets along N. Milwaukee Avenue and Logan Square to celebrate their Revolution Oktoberfest brew and all things beer, Bavaria, and Chicago — and, assuredly, there’ll be some great sausages being grilled. There’s a suggested donation of $5 for entrance that’ll benefit the neighborhood school programs for Friends of Goethe School. Otherwise, it’s free to wander around the booths and beer taps at your leisure.
OKTOBERFEST DENVER, CO — Weekends of September 21st/23rd and 28th/30th
Denver’s Oktoberfest is a massive festival dedicated to all things beer and German. Mugs of beer will be hoisted, sausages will be grilled, and the Polkanauts are playing live. There will be plenty of classic German Oktoberfest beers on tap with a wide selection of local brews from Denver and Colorado also making appearances.
OKTOBERFEST USA LA CROSSE, WI — September 27th-30th
Oktoberfest USA up in Wisconsin is one of the biggest Oktoberfest celebrations outside of Munich, with 150,000 people attending to party with polka. Wisconsin is also a mecca for craft beer lovers and the first night of the festivities is devoted to American craft brews. The fest combines the beer-soaked conviviality of a great Oktoberfest with the overblown nature of a great American state fair. Plus there’s a Dachshund race. It’s a blast.
NEW ULM’S OKTOBERFEST, MN — Weekends of October 5th/6th and 12th/13th
65 percent of New Ulm’s population has German ancestry, making the city a great place to celebrate an Oktoberfest in America. The city shuts down their main street and lines it with food stalls, beer taps, and plenty of picnic tables for two weekends worth of beer festivities. The local brew, Schell’s Brewery, even offers special Oktoberfest tours of their factory during the festival, so beer lovers can go all in on beer culture without having to take a break from partying.
BIG BEAR LAKE OKTOBERFEST, CA — Every weekend between September 8th and November 3rd
Out in California, the best bet for a great Oktoberfest is up in Big Bear. Big Bear Lake hosts eight weekends from September through November of Oktoberfest fun. Each weekend has various activities happening indoors and outdoors (log sawing anyone?) all centered around drinking a lot of great beer from California and Germany.
OKTOBERFEST HOFBRAUHAUS LAS VEGAS, NV — Every weekend between September 14th and October 31st
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Oktoberfest doesn’t have to be a street party in some town up by the Great Lakes. It can be a great party in a brauhaus in Vegas, where great parties are done best. Hofbrauhaus Las Vegas is running Oktoberfest parties until October 31st every single weekend. Siegfried and Roy kicked off the festivities last year by tapping a massive wooden keg — you can’t get more Vegas than that. So, if you’re in Vegas, get some Oktoberfest in by dipping into the Hofbrauhaus to raise a Maß or two in between big plates of pork shanks and dumplings.
WURSTFEST NEW BRAUNFELS, TX — November 2nd-11th
Okay, okay, this one doesn’t technically qualify as an ‘Oktoberfest’ per se. It’s in November after all. Yet New Braunfels’ Wurstfest is as close as it gets in Texas to a real Oktoberfest. Scores of people descend on a huge fairgrounds for all things German and Texan with plenty of fair rides thrown in for good measure. There’s a massive beer garden that serves plenty of German and local beers right next to a huge sausage hall serving delicious sausages. Add in some Texan food trucks and a carnival and you have yourself a great time.
OKTOBERFEST ZINZINNATI — September 21st-23rd
Oktoberfest Zinzinnati is one of the biggest German cultural celebrations in the country. Downtown Cincinnati turns into a bacchanal celebrating all things beer, sausages, and pretzels for three days every late September — there’s even a Dachshund race. This fest feels very German beer fest as filtered through an American street carnival with plenty of beer to wash down the fried, well, everything. It’s a hoot.