Oktoberfest is a traditional Bavarian festival celebrating all things Bavaria. Originally it was a festival in celebration of the marriage of the Kronprinz Ludwig of Bavaria to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildeburghausen on October 12th, 1810. The citizens of Munich were invited to take part in the celebration and the festival has grown since then, morphing into a celebration of Bavarian identity, harvest, season, beer and more.
Today the festival is celebrated across the whole of Germany and in many locations around the world. The Oktoberfest in Munich receives upwards of 7,000,000 tourists every year! The USA experienced large amounts of German migration during the 1800s and early 1900s and as a result has a strong tradition of German heritage. This has translated into Oktoberfest festivities popping up across the nation, even in places without strong ties to Germany.
Tradition mandates that only local beers brewed in Munich are served at Oktoberfest festivals, and only those that conform to Rheinheitsgebot, otherwise known as German Beer Purity Laws. Traditional breweries include Paulaner, Spatenbräu and Hofbräu-München. Of course, in the States the selection of beers available during Oktoberfest is much wider.
Regular festivities include horse racing, drinking competitions, live music such as polka (and in more recent years electronic music) and the ceremonial beer barrel tapping. The connection to Bavarian and German culture you can experience while attending Oktoberfest is hard to find any other time of year. So take advantage by seeing where and when you can celebrate this wunderbar festival. Here are a few places to lookout for if you are thinking of joining in on the fun this year.
New York City
By the mid 1800s, New York City was the 3rd largest German population center in the world. While many Germans eventually made their way westward, spread out to the countryside or were eclipsed by Italian, Jewish and Irish immigrants, there are still marks of German influence on the city.
Oktoberfest New York is a continuation of that history. Featuring authentic Oktoberfest festivities, Oktoberfest New York features drinks, food, games and decorations that will entertain all age groups. Festival goers can enjoy steins of their favorite German lagers and pilsners, from world-famous German brands like Hofbräu, Weihenstephan and Radeberger. Food will include traditional fair like sausages, giant pretzels and sauerkraut. The 3,500 sq ft. venue also has stunning views of the Brooklyn and Williamsburg bridges. This is a Fall festival not worth missing.
Dates: Friday Sept 13th – Sunday September 15th from 11am until 12am, and then every following Saturday and Sunday from 11am-12am until October 20th.
Where: 78 South St., New York, NY 10038.
Price: Free to attend, but you need to RSVP. Food, drink and game tickets sold separately.
Los Angeles’s year round sunny weather makes it perfect for outdoor events, but the very best Oktoberfest festival Los Angeles has to offer is an indoor affair. The The Alpine Village Center has been hosting Oktoberfest festivals at their Torrance location for over 45 years. Less than 10 miles from the Pacific, the Alpine Village Center provides its guests with a mix of German authenticity and Southern California flair. Ranked as one of the best Oktoberfest festivals in the nation, the Alpine Village Center is your LA Bavarian wunderland.
The highlight of the experience is the authentic 10-piece Oomp Pah band, flown in from Germany. Dining options include classics like Giant Bavarian pretzels and Pork Schnitzel, as well as California influenced cuisine like Alpine Village Center’s famous herb-baked chicken.
The official beer of the festival is Hofbräu, and they will be providing Dunkel, Hefeweizen and Oktoberfestbier styles. In addition to the German options, Alpine Village Center will also be providing plenty of other drink options, including local and national craft beers, wine, a full bar and all types of soft drinks. Communal tables encourage guests to interact with each other and join in on the festive fun.
Dates: October 4th – 27th, every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. 21 + Fridays and Saturdays. All ages welcome on Sunday.
Where: 833 W Torrance Blvd., Torrance, CA 90502
Price: Friday – $15, Saturday – $20, Sunday – $10. Click here for more information.
Oktoberfest Zinzinnati is the largest Oktoberfest in America, with over 500,000 people attending every year. Cincinnati has long been a central point for German culture and heritage in Southwest Ohio. Over one-fourth of Cincinnatians claim German ancestry, making the city one of the most ethnically German places in the United States.
The beer served at Oktoberfest Zinzinnati will include authentic German brands like Spaten, Weihenstephan and Erdinger, as well as local and national beers like Rhinegeist (brewed in Cincinnati), Kentucky Ale and Sam Adams. Food choices go beyond the German classics of bratwurst and sauerkraut. You can find rarer delicacies like cabbage rolls, spaetzel and curry wurst.
In terms of pure entertainment, Zincinnati might have everyone beat. You can participate in the World’s Largest Chicken Dance led by Grand Marshal Than Maynard of the Cincinnati Zoo, as well as traditional festivities like Gemeulichkeit games, Stein Hoist Competitions and live music. They even have a Dachshund race aptly titled “The Running of the Weiners.” That alone is worth a one-way ticket to Cincinnati.
Dates: September 20 – 22 from 11am -11pm, except Sunday from 11am – 9 pm.
Where: Downtown Cincinnati, on 2nd and 3rd streets, between Walnut and Elm.
Last on this list but not last in our hearts, the granddaddy, the hometown hero, the real deal of Oktoberfest. Munich is without a doubt the premier location to be at, if you have the means to get there. It all started here: the tents, the beer, the entertainment – everything else is just derivative. Munich is the pinnacle of Oktoberfest possibility, and if you can make it, it should be at the very top of your list.
Dates: September 21 – October 6. Tents are generally open from 10am to 11pm weekends and weekdays.
Where: Theresienwiese (a park in Central Munich) is where the official festivities take place.
Price: No ticket price. Pay as you go for food, drinks, games and souvenirs. Visit www.oktoberfest.de/en for more information.