As each autumn season rolls in, you’ll probably notice an influx of Oktoberfest beers at your local liquor store. These seasonal beers are more than just annual limited editions that fly off the shelves every September and October. The Oktoberfest beer style, or marzen lager, is branded as such because of its place in the historic German celebration held in Munich every single year.
According to Britannica, the first Oktoberfest dates back to 1810. The celebration was held on October 12 to commemorate the marriage of Bavaria’s crown prince (later King Louis I) and Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. The original festival went on for five days, concluding with a horse race. The festival was such a hit that it was held again the following year, and it has not missed a year since. A few years after the first Oktoberfest, vendors began selling food and drink, which eventually evolved into make-shift beer halls erected by Munich’s brewers.
Lucky for those living in the United States, the millions of German immigrants that settled in the American Midwest and beyond brought with them this annual celebration of culture, music, food, and beer. There are countless Oktoberfests held across the U.S. every fall. The truth is, any Oktoberfest that has a fresh marzen lager and juicy bratwursts is worth going to. Just in case you want to pack your lederhosen and attend the best of the best, here are the American Oktoberfests that just might rival Munich’s. Prost!
13. Pennsylvania Bavarian Oktoberfest – Canonsburg, PA
In eastern Pennsylvania, a region of the state and country with a massive German population and influence, you’ll find the Pennsylvania Bavarian Oktoberfest. It is held over a full three-day weekend in mid-September (September 16 through 18 in 2022).
This Oktoberfest is the perfect blend of traditional and modern culture. There are two music stages at the festival, one for traditional German folk music and another for today’s pop. The food court provides a wide variety of cuisines, including traditional German foods synonymous with Oktoberfest, in addition to American classics and options from other cultures. A vast assortment of beer is available, as well as amusement rides and games for kids and local craft vendors.
One unique feature of this Oktoberfest that makes it a fun modern take is the 2022 celebration’s "Totally ’80s" night, which is held on Saturday. Music from the iconic decade will be played, and ’80s dress is highly encouraged. It may not be traditional, but it is sure to be a fun time.
12. German-American Oktoberfest – New York, NY
If there’s any city that knows how to throw a party, it’s New York. Although New York may not be known for its German population, the German American Oktoberfest is organized and run as part of the annual German-American Steuben Parade. The first official parade was held in 1957 and began in what is now called Yorkville, then Germantown. The parade marched up Fifth Avenue and turned onto 86th Street, which was known as "German Boulevard" back then.
Today, that same route is taken each year, but the organization’s 2022 Oktoberfest will be held in Central Park, Rumsey Field, Summerstage in New York on September 17. The festival includes the usual food, drinks, and music the German Volkfest has to offer, but the location in the heart of Central Park is really what makes this Oktoberfest great. The festival is particularly unique and worth a visit for anyone living in the tri-state area.
11. Leavenworth Oktoberfest – Leavenworth, WA
This Oktoberfest in Washington state is making its 24th annual celebration in 2022. The best part is that if you miss the first weekend, you can join the fun on one of the following two weekends. That’s right, the Leavenworth Oktoberfest opens September 30 through October 1, continues October 7 to 8, and finishes on October 14 and 15. This Oktoberfest is organized and run by Projekt Bayern, a non-profit organization working to promote and preserve Leavenworth’s Bavarian influence.
The Leavenworth Oktoberfest is moving to a new location in 2022. The Town Toyota Center in Wenatchee is a facility chosen to give both the attendees and vendors more space, not to mention free parking. The reason for the move is because of the festival’s popularity. Over the past two decades, it became so big that the town no longer possessed the accommodations necessary to hold it. However, shuttle buses will take attendees back and forth between Leavenworth and Wenatchee hotels.
This festival is not your typical Oktoberfest, though its foundation on tradition fuels the three-week celebration of German culture. It includes a stein holding contest for both men and women and only imported German beers and wines. Attendees can also join a procession held each Saturday that ends with the official keg tapping ceremony to open up the day.
10. Helen Oktoberfest – Helen, GA
The Helen Oktoberfest in Helen, Georgia, claims to be the longest-running Oktoberfest in the U.S. Entering its 52nd year, this festival prides itself on being kid friendly. Children under the age of 6 are admitted for free, and kids aged 6-12 for half price.
Every year the Helen Festhalle welcomes German folk bands from all over the country and the world. The hall is a massive room that fits everything Oktoberfest has to offer, including long tables for enjoying food and drink and dance floors to enjoy the polka music. Children even have their own dance floor inside the hall.
The town of Helen took on its German heritage in 1969 when the entire town was renovated to attract more business (via City of Helen, Georgia). An artist was commissioned to redesign the town’s look and, having spent time in Germany, sketched the buildings with accents of Alpine design. Nestled in the valley of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Helen provides attendees of its Oktoberfest with a transcendent experience. The mountainous location combined with the architecture, beer, brats, and music in the Helen Festhalle all come together for a weekend as authentically German as they come in the U.S.
9. Big Bear Lake Oktoberfest – Big Bear Lake, CA
If you thought three different weekends of celebrating Oktoberfest were convenient, try nine at the Big Bear Lake Oktoberfest in California. Beginning the weekend of September 10 and running until November 5, Big Bear Lake hosts its Oktoberfest at a 6,750-foot altitude in the mountains of northern California. This is another Oktoberfest where scenery plays a key —and rather awesome — role. The Alpine-like surroundings and crisp air contribute to this authentic Oktoberfest that has plenty of imported German beers and brats.
In addition to the polka music from a variety of bands and artists throughout the nine-week celebration, there are multiple contests held for attendees to win prizes. These include log sawing, stein holding, a safe chugging contest with nonalcoholic beer, stein carrying, and a children’s pretzel toss. The fun never stops in this multi-weekend event, and if you’re able to make it to one weekend, you will most certainly be tempted to come back for another.
8. Fredericksburg Oktoberfest – Frederickburg, TX
You may not have thought of Texas as a state teeming with German culture, but the town of Fredericksburg celebrates its German heritage proudly. Fredericksburg, Texas, was founded by German settlers back in 1846, and Oktoberfest Fredricksburg is a celebration of the city’s 176-year history of life in the Texas hill country.
This festival features dozens of musical acts performing on five different stages — mainly consisting of oompah bands — and over 60 imported German and local craft beer options. The three-day event (September 30 through October 2, 2022) also includes a waltz and yodel contest, lederhosen contest, and the OkTUBAfest, but the main event is the Hauptrasse Chicken Dance, occurring each of the three days at 9:30 a.m. This Oktoberfest is fun for the whole family. So when in a state where "everything’s bigger," the Oktoberfest in Texas’ "oompah capital" is sure to be a great time.
7. Mt. Angel Oktoberfest – Mt. Angel, OR
The Mt. Angel Oktoberfest in Oregon has so much to offer that it’s hard to believe it only lasts for one weekend. There are seven venues available, four of which are open and free. The three that are paid entry are the Biergarten, Weingarten, and Aplinegarten, but the Prostgarten, Engelgarten, and Kindergarten are all free admission. A variety of events go on in and out of the gardens all weekend long, including a car show, golf tournament, and Oktoberfest Olympics.
One special and unique aspect of Mt. Angel’s Oktoberfest is the Glockenspiel. Four times each day, the clock tower in downtown Mt. Angel opens up to show figures inside dancing to the bell’s tune. This may be a daily occurrence for locals, but the Glockenspiel draws large crowds of those visiting the town during Oktoberfest and throughout the year. It’s meant to represent and celebrate Mt. Angel’s German, Swiss, Bavarian, and Native American history, as there is a figure depicting all of the cultures that contributed to Mt. Angel’s culturally rich past and present.
The Mr. Angel Oktoberfest is held mid-September (September 15 through 17 in 2022). If you are close, making the trip will be well worth it.
6. Denver Oktoberfest – Denver, CO
In 2022, this two weekend-long Oktoberfest will be held on the weekends of September 16 and September 23. The Denver Oktoberfest is not your traditional Oktoberfest regarding music, food, and dress, and the steins of beer available make the festival worth visiting.
Imported German beer fills massive steins all festival long, and there is also a craft biergarten full of local brews. Prost Brewing Company is a sponsor of the festival and offers a VIP ticket package for its beer hall that includes unlimited food and drink, exclusive beer, wine, and cocktail tastings, and merchandise from the brewery.
Once you have your beer fix, stick around for keg bowling and watch competitors roll kegs of beer down a lane to knock down a stack of kegs. Really, is there anything that sounds more fun than that? Beer is the backbone of any Oktoberfest, and they’re doing it right in Denver.
5. Milwaukee Oktoberfest – Milwaukee, WI
If a copious amount of beer isn’t really your thing and you love Oktoberfest because of the food options, Milwaukee Oktoberfest is for you. Held at the War Memorial Center in Milwaukee, here you will find row upon row of whole roasted pigs, brats, pretzels, roasted chicken, rollbraten, or pork sandwiches, and even Bienenstich, a traditional German dessert bread filled with buttercream. There are plenty of German beer options available, too. Still, it is the food that reigns supreme in Milwaukee every fall. Food and drink are provided by Kegel’s Inn, a popular authentic German restaurant in the city.
Milwaukee’s Oktoberfest provides such an authentic experience because of its rich German history (via Visit Milwaukee). Of all the Midwest states and cities settled by German immigrants, Wisconsin and Milwaukee are among the most abundant. This translates to an utterly awesome Oktoberfest, rich in culture and delicious food all weekend long.
4. Twin Cities Oktoberfest – Minneapolis, MN
The Twin Cities Oktoberfest is held annually on the Minnesota Fairgrounds in the Historic Progress Center — in 2022, on October 7 and 8. The Historic Progress Center is a massive indoor space turned beer hall for the weekend, and it’s perfectly suited for hosting such a communal event.
This Oktoberfest does not offer imported German beer options. Instead, it is a 100% local event, so all of the drinks, food, and music come straight from Minneapolis. There are over 20 beer and cider options on tap to choose from and fill your stein. Plus, this festival includes a German clothing vendor selling everything you need to celebrate Oktoberfest in the proper dress.
A fairly new Oktoberfest, 2022 is only its 12th annual run. Minnesota is often thought of as having a more Scandinavian population and history, but it turns out Germans are the most populous immigrant group in the state (via Star Tribune). This means good German food and music, so even if the beer in your stein is not authentically German, there isn’t much more you can really ask for in an Oktoberfest celebration.
3. Das Beste Oktoberfest – La Crosse, WI
Back to Wisconsin! The Oktoberfest in Milwaukee is a great one, for sure, but Das Beste Oktoberbest in La Crosse is undoubtedly the best in the state and maybe even the best in the Midwest. The first Oktoberfest in La Crosse was held back in 1961. Originally organized out of necessity for a community-wide event in the city, considering the German-American population, an Oktoberbest was the obvious choice.
The original objectives of the first La Cross Oktoberfest were to promote local pride in La Crosse, obtain national publicity, promote tourism, involve a large number of people, and break even financially (it’s run by a non-profit organization). What started as a small festival to bring the local community together has blossomed into a massive celebration that draws visitors from all over. It continues to sustain and thrive as the longest-running annual Oktoberfest in the region.
The 2022 festival will be held from September 29 to October 1. Events included in Das Beste Oktoberfest include a craft beer night, tapping of the golden keg, and a fireworks celebration on Saturday night. Hundreds of beers from all over the country and world are available on tap, as well as locally-made brats and other German staples. As dozens of musical acts perform one after the other all three days, the fun never stops. This Oktoberfest is a must-visit for anyone living in the region, and it may just warrant a visit from beyond.
2. Oktoberfest at Trapp Brewing Bierhall – Stowe, VT
If you’ve seen the film "The Sound of Music," you know the von Trapp family. What you may not know is that the von Trapps were an actual family that escaped persecution from the Nazi regime, immigrated to America, and settled in the mountains of Vermont (via Biography). The Trapp Family Lodge has since become a hotel and resort well worth a visit, even if it’s not for Oktoberfest. This Oktoberfest is, however, an extra dose of fun, tradition, and secluded celebration.
The Oktoberfest at the Trapp Family Lodge is held at the beerhall where the resort brews its own lagers and other beers. The 2022 Oktoberfest will be on Saturday, September 17, in three different time slots throughout the day. Tickets are required for entry, but admission to this festival is one of a kind. A panoramic view of the Green Mountains that give the state of Vermont its nickname is in full autumn bloom. Plus, a special menu is curated every year, often including traditional Bavarian staples with a twist.
The Trapp Family Lodge’s motto is "A little of Austria, A lot of Vermont." Once you’re here for Oktoberfest, you will realize and relish the harmony that occurs when these three different backgrounds come together.
1. Oktoberfest Zinzinnati – Cincinnati, OH
This massive festival sponsored by Samuel Adams takes place in mid-September (September 16 through 18th, 2022) in downtown Cincinnati. The city of Cincinnati is so steeped in German heritage that the name "Zinzinnati" is not only used for the annual Oktoberfest, but locals also use it to refer to the city because of their German roots and influence.
Oktoberfest Zinzinnati has over 120 beers available and food from over 30 vendors. Events such as the World Brat-Eating Contest, Gemutlichkeit Games, Chicken Dance, and Running of the Weiners fuel the fun of this festival every year. The entire section of the city is closed off to vehicles each year, so the whole space is dedicated to the festivities without any worry of parking or traffic. The section is completely transformed into a Bavarian-style village to create a worthy homage to southwestern Ohio’s German heritage.
The Zinzinnati Oktoberfest claims to be the biggest Oktoberfest in the country. While that may not be precisely calculable, the festival drew an estimated 700,000 people in 2021, and that is nothing short of extraordinary. First held in 1976, Oktoberfest Zinzinnati is sure to continue on indefinitely, so you should definitely add this to your bucket list.