7 Places to Celebrate Oktoberfest

The original party may be in Munich, but you don't need to hop aboard a plane to experience the ultimate party.

Pull your lederhosen or your dirndl dress out of the closet. It's that marvelous time of the year to dress like a Bavarian and fill your stein with a German lager. Yes, it's the season for Oktoberfest.

Held since 1810, Oktoberfest originated as a wedding reception with all Munich’s citizens in attendance. The party now occurs annually in Munich from late September to the first weekend in October. More than 6 million people attend the event, which has grown to become the world’s largest fair. This year’s event goes from Sept. 22 through Oct. 7, but if you can’t make the trek to Munich, don’t worry—there are enough Oktoberfest events going on across the United States, you won’t have to miss out on a single pour.

Oompah band
(©Dan McKernan)

Big Bear Lake, California

Just under 100 miles east of Los Angeles, Big Bear Lake has been home to a massive Oktoberfest event since 1971. Running on every weekend between Sept. 9 until Oct. 28, this seven-week festival should be on your list of must-dos. Each Saturday, the party runs noon to midnight, while each Sunday takes a more family-friendly vibe, featuring kids’ contests and activities—plus, free admission for children under age 12.

Cincinnati, Ohio

Oktoberfest Zinzinatti is America's largest with 500,000 attending and 2018 marks its 42nd year. Rock stars, movie stars and professional athletes have acted as grand marshal, including the Crown Prince of Bavaria who led 48,000 in the Chicken Dance, setting a world record for largest group dance in 1994. Running Sept. 21-23, Oktoberfest Zinzinnati will be held on 2nd and 3rd Streets, between Elm and Walnut in downtown Cincinnati beginning with the Running of the Wieners. 

Dancers at the Fredericksburg, Texas, Oktoberfest
In October, Fredericksburg, Texas, becomes a Bavarian village. (Courtesy Fredericksburg Oktoberfest)

Fredricksburg, Texas

Oktoberfest comes naturally in this town, founded in 1846 by the Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas. The annual event—held Oct. 5-7 this year—features everything you might expect, from beer and brats to dirndls and old-fashioned Bavarian bands. The festival is more family-oriented, as well, with a children’s play area and entertainment. The town is also situated in the center of Texas wine country, so if you somehow manage to get your fill of the brats and beer, be sure to sample some of the local wine selections.

Ompah band
Europa plays at the Helen Oktoberfest in 2015. (©Tom Hellgeth)

Helen, Georgia

Situated in a mountain valley roughly 90 miles northeast of Atlanta, the quaint Helen, Georgia, is reminiscent of a Bavarian mountain village. In 1969, three local businessmen sought to make the town more enticing to travelers passing through toward the mountains. By fall of that year, the Bavarian makeover was complete, and the town had gone from a dying lumber town to the third most visited city in the state. Now the town plays host to the country’s longest-running Oktoberfest, a 48-year-old tradition with all the German beer, bands and polka dancing you can handle. It will take place in the Helen Festhalle Sept. 6 through Oct. 28.

Oktoberfest celebration Leavenworth, Washington.
Dancers perform a German folk dance during a celebration in Leavenworth. (©wcjho/Shutterstock)

Leavenworth, Washington

The history of this mountain town nearly echoes that of the Southern city of Helen, Ga. Known as Icicle Flats in the late 19th century, the town was a booming center for the logging and sawmill business, but was driven to near extinction when the railroad moved out of town and business declined. In the early 1960s, town leaders banded together and completely remodeled the town into a Bavarian village, complete with a series of festivals, including Oktoberfest. This town’s festival runs the last weekend in September and first two weekends in October, with a keg-tapping ceremony each Saturday at 1 pm, musical groups, arts and crafts and, of course, plenty of beer and bratwurst.

Nashville, Tennessee

Celebrating its German heritage (or lack thereof) as its website proclaims, Nashville’s oldest festival is spread out over eight blocks of historic Germantown. As well as traditional food and drink, music will be played on three distinct stages. Oktoberfest will run Oct. 11-14 and accompanying events include a 5K Bier Run and Craft Fair. For thrill seekers, there will be a 500-foot beer slide, the world’s longest.

Cape Coral, Florida

Over 100,000 people are expected to attend Florida's largest Oktoberfest now entering its 32nd year.  Put on by the German American Social Club, it runs the last two weekends of October. German food and drink will be among the highlights as well as a carnival for kids and rides and games. Entertainment will be provided on three stages and two dance floors.