10 Awesome Places to Celebrate Oktoberfest in the United States Denise Lett / Shutterstock.com

10 Awesome Places to Celebrate Oktoberfest in the United States

Oktoberfest, originally a celebration of a royal wedding, began over 200 years ago in a field in Munich, Germany. It’s now the largest festival on earth, with people coming all over the world to celebrate Bavarian culture and, of course, drink beer. But it’s not necessary to leave the United States to celebrate Oktoberfest. Many towns across the country have embraced their German heritage, putting together festivals that rival those in Munich. Other cities simply wanted an excuse to put on a party, combining local food and beer with German traditions to make their Oktoberfest unique. Read on for 10 of the best.

10. Las Vegas, Nevada

Hofsbrauhaus in Las Vegas advertises that visitors will 'party like they are in Bavaria' and it’s certainly true that those dropping in might think they’ve wandered into Germany by mistake. The Vegas beer hall which opened in 2004, is a perfect copy of Munich’s Hofbrauhaus and serves its Hefes, Dunkels and Oktoberfests, brewed in the U.S. using the same recipes as they do in Bavaria. This is the most static of the events on this list, occurring as it does in just one building, but with Vegas’s reputation for replicating the tiniest details, no one will leave disappointed. Join in on this celebration and you can expect to see plenty of lederhosen and even more dirndls, live Bavarian music and celebrity keg tapping.

9. Frankenmuth, Michigan

It’s no wonder Frankenmuth, with its distinctive half-timbered architecture, its brewery, and its German-themed restaurants and shops, is often called “Little Bavaria.” This town is also well known for its festivals, throwing at least one per month. Combine Frankenmuth’s love for parties with its Bavarian heritage and naturally, the town puts on a great Oktoberfest. In fact, it’s the only one in the U.S. to have been officially sanctioned by the mayor of Munich. Unsurprisingly, Frankenmuth puts on a very traditional Oktoberfest, aligning its festivities to the opening of Munich’s celebration and hosting its wiener dog races in a pavilion modeled after a German beer hall. Frankenmuth Brewery, originally established in 1862, pours an Oktoberfest that should definitely be tried.

8. New Braunfels, Texas

Originally settled by Germans in 1845, the town of New Braunfels near San Antonio, revels in the opportunity to celebrate its heritage each year. “Sprechen die Fun (Do you speak fun)?” is the theme of Wurstfest, which opens its 10 day celebration not with a tapping of the keg, but a ceremonial biting of the sausage. The festival, which recently expanded to accommodate even more guests, includes a carnival, a Bavarian marketplace, food trucks and five music stages. Wurstfest even has a craft beer garden, making sure small Texas breweries have their chance to shine. Best of all, this Oktoberfest isn’t celebrated until early November, so it’s possible to hit a few other towns first, then stretch out the festivities by heading to Texas.

7. Leavenworth, Washington

Las Vegas might have created a replica Hofsbrauhaus, but this town in central Washington has gone ahead and replicated an entire Bavarian village. For the first three weekends in October, the majority of the main drag is devoted to the festival. The parade, followed by the traditional keg tapping, isn’t just for opening day, but occurs each Saturday. Leavenworth makes the most of its German connections, bringing in German bands (along with its local Bavarian-style band), offering up plenty of Bavarian wursts, selling German crafts and of course pouring German beer. And since the town revels in its Bavarian ties throughout the year, that practice enables them to put on a pretty great party for the over 10,000 that come for the Oktoberfest weekends.

6. New Ulm, Minnesota

“Germans have more fun” insist the organizers of New Ulm’s Oktoberfest, but it’s not necessary to have German blood to enjoy the celebrations. The festival takes place over two weekends and across the entire town – with four primary locations – and the horse-drawn trolley rides provide plenty of opportunity for visitors to take in the town’s German history. Be sure not to miss the 45-foot tall Glockenspiel, with its rotating characters and chiming bells that ring throughout the day. New Ulm’s German heritage is further showcased in its Schnell Brewery, the second oldest in the country, which visitors can tour daily. But while New Ulm’s slogan might be “Come See What’s Brewing,” it's Oktoberfest event also celebrates wine: Local winery Morgan Creek Vineyards hosts their annual “Great Grape Stomp” as part of the festivities.

5. San Francisco, California

Those who love fantastic views should prioritize Oktoberfest By the Bay, held on San Francisco’s Pier 48 overlooking Mission Bay. And because September’s typically San Francisco’s most beautiful month of the year, sunny weather is almost guaranteed to enhance visitors’ experiences. Hosted by the city’s German American Society and sponsored by German brewery Spaten, this is quite the traditional Oktoberfest. The 21 piece Chico Bavarian Band provides oompah music throughout the event, while traditional Bavarian dancers strut their stuff every couple of hours. The organizers of Oktoberfest by the Bay strongly encourage the wearing of dirndls and lederhosen, and of course the typical pretzels and sausages are on offer to help soak up all the beer.

4. Denver, Colorado

Denver’s Oktoberfest is the perfect fit for those who just want to drink beer and not take themselves too seriously. The city’s festival runs for two weekends, admission is free, pets are allowed (unless they’re snakes; the organizers hate snakes) and buying Oktoberfest steins is encouraged because “you will look awesome carrying it around.” That sense of humor runs through the entire Oktoberfest, from the “Keg Bowling National Championships” to the “Stein Hoisting Competition,” an event which rewards those who hold a full 1.5 liter stein at shoulder height the longest. Those hungry for prizes can also sign up for the bratwurst eating contest, the winner of which will have a donation made to his or her favorite charity and the chance to be known as the “Brat-King.” Denver’s Oktoberfest goes through twice as many kegs as any other in the U.S., so be sure to come thirsty.

3. La Crosse, Wisconsin

This Wisconsin festival, which calls itself “Oktoberfest USA,” is famous for combining the Midwest’s German heritage with the region’s own unique culture and customs. While the “Lederhosen Luncheon” serves up the traditional Bavarian sausages and potato salad, other food vendors sell things like deep fried cookie dough and Wisconsin cheese curds. This is another Oktoberfest that takes pride in its local beer, in addition to serving German brews, setting up a craft beer tent on the festival’s opening night. One of the biggest draws for Oktoberfest USA is its parades. The smaller Torchlight Parade kicks off opening night when its illuminated entries wind through the streets of La Crosse, while the Maple Leaf Parade held on the Saturday, draws over 100,000 along its route.

2. Mount Angel, Oregon

Perhaps one of the lesser known Oktoberfest's on our list, Mount Angel’s festival is nonetheless famous in the Northwest, attracting more than 450,000 people over a four-day period. It makes perfect sense for Mount Angel to host Oktoberfest: Not only was the small town settled by primarily Bavarian immigrants, but the hilltop abbey nearby is now brewing its own beer. The Swiss order has created an Oregon take on Trappist beers, which will now be served at the German festival. If supplies run out, Mount Angel will also be serving Weihenstephaner limited-edition Hefe-Weissbier. Take a break from beer tasting for things like the crosstown pedal tractor race and the von Trapp Family Singers. Cultures further mingle in the food booths, where fish tacos and marionberry cobbler can be purchased alongside sauerkraut and spaetzle.

1. Cincinnati, Ohio

“America’s Oktoberfest” might be one of the shortest on our list, taking place over one quick weekend in September, but it’s the biggest in the country as it brings in more than half a million each year.  And no wonder, as Cincinnati packs a lot of party into the festival’s three days. It all kicks off with the “Running of the Wieners,” in which 100 daschunds wearing hot dog costumes run to their owners. The Goodwill Games, which include a beer stein race and a barrel roll, come next, while later in the weekend is the world’s largest Chicken Dance, in which Oktoberfest Zinzinnati attendees attempt to break the record they set back in 1994, when 48,000 participated. Sam Adams is the main sponsor, but the beer tents will also boast German beers like Erdinger and Weihenstephan.

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