Attending Oktoberfest in Germany is a legendary event etched into many travellers' bucket lists. However, for those that can't make it to Germany this year, there are plenty of extravagant Oktoberfest alternatives in the United States. Towns large and small from the east coast to the west celebrate Oktoberfest in September and October. Mostly it's a fine excuse to drink lots of beer and enjoy German food, but it also gives a sense of community to those who attend. For those looking for the best of the best Oktoberfest celebrations in the United States, here are five of our favourites.
Oktoberfest Zinzinnati in Cincinnati, Ohio
Creativecommons.org/ Chris Breeze
Cincinnati is easily the largest Oktoberfest celebration in the United States and has billed itself as the second largest celebration in the world, being beaten out only by the festival in Munich.
The celebration in Cincinnati attracts over 500,000 visitors each year for its Bavarian inspired events, like the Running of the Wieners (as in dachshund wiener dogs), the playing of the world's largest collection of alpenhorns, bratwurst eating contests and, of course, beer drinking competitions.
The Oktoberfest Zinzinnati festival not only pretty much shuts down the city, it is also responsible for the consumption of 100,000 kilograms of bratwurst, sauerkraut, cream puffs and strudel, as well as over a million pints of German beer. The best part is that admission into the festival is free, but Oktoberfest drinkers will find plenty of unique stalls where they can spend their hard earned money. The only real downside of this particular celebration is that while Oktoberfest in Germany runs for two weeks, Cincinnati packs all their festivities into only two days of merriment.
Oktoberfest in Glendale, Wisconsin
Milwaukee, Wisconsin is one of the most German places in the United States. However, surprisingly it is not home to a massive Oktoberfest celebration. The German immigrants of Milwaukee travel 10 kilometres north to the town of Glendale to do their celebrating of beer and German culture in September.
This festival is set outside of the busy town and along the banks of the Milwaukee River in Heidelberg Park. Through this wide open natural green setting, the organizers of Milwaukee's favourite Oktoberfest want to remind homesick German immigrants for their homeland. This small Wisconsin town hosts activities modeled after Munich's own Oktoberfest activities and has been doing so for the past 60 years. They host German brass bands, yodeling and the ever-popular Schuhplattler folk dancing. Along with the ever-flowing stream of flavourful German beer, Glendale Oktoberfest organizers make sure that the beer is only complemented by German snacks like bratwurst, spanferkel (young roasted pig on a spit) thick pretzels and the vanilla almond bienenstich custard.
Denver Oktoberfest in Denver, Colorado
The Denver Oktoberfest started out small with just a few shop owners tapping a keg and handing out pretzels in honour of their favourite Bavarian tradition. However, over the past fifty years, it has grown into one of the biggest Oktoberfest celebrations in the United States with 350,000 visitors annually coming to dance, sing, eat and drink tons of beer.
Visitors to Denver Oktoberfest can partake in the unique events like Keg Bowling, Long Dog Derby and Das Hustlef Hoff 5K that have made this particular Oktoberfest celebration truly unique. Visitors can pack themselves into this beautiful alpine city to eat and drink their weight in beer and schnitzel and enjoy the jam-packed entertainment schedule. Denver Oktoberfest is a shining example of how the surrounding area of the celebration can only serve to enhance the merriment and culture of an age-old festival.
Oktoberfest by the Bay in San Francisco
It doesn't seem like it, but San Francisco, California, is home to around 17 different German Clubs, all of which are represented at Oktoberfest by the Bay. The major draw of Oktoberfest by the Bay is that the autumn weather in San Francisco is absolutely sublime compared to all those northern Oktoberfests. There is nothing more pleasant that sipping beer in the Bay area's comforting 70 degree weather. The party itself takes place on Pier 48 that juts out over the water of the bay. While guests enjoy Spaten beer and classic Bavarian cuisine, they will be serenaded by a traditional Bavarian Brass Band. Unfortunately this particular Oktoberfest has a pretty high admission fee of $25, but that covers everything inside the grounds, including food, drink and entertainment, so it actually has quite a bit of value if you go hungry and thirsty.
Mount Angel Oktoberfest in Mount Angel, Oregon
Since German immigrants settled Mount Angel, Oregon, in the 1800s, German culture has permeated the area. Still today the residents of Mount Angel celebrate their homeland and its culture during Oktoberfest.
This little forested town just 40 kilometres south of Portland has been celebrating Oktoberfest every year for over fifty years. They host a whole line up of Bavarian bands, dancing, alpine food booths stocked with German treats and golden brews like Weihenstephan, Warsteiner and Konig Ludwig to fill up those beer steins. While the alcohol flows freely, this particular Oktoberfest provides plenty of activities for kids, including entertainment, food, face painting, pony rides and a petting zoo. Their "Kindergarten" even offers to keep kids entertained while the adults go play.