The Vivant’s 25 Best Cities in America for Oktoberfest

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Munich certainly holds the world’s biggest Oktoberfest with six million people attending, but cities throughout America are rolling out the barrel this year for some of the best celebrations ever. No matter where you live, you won’t have to go far – and The Vivant has compiled a list of the very best Oktoberfest celebrations in America. So put on your lederhosen and dust off your accordion! No matter where you go, you can’t go wrong so long as there is plenty of good beer, but these 25 American cities have really stepped up their games for Oktoberfest for this year to earn a coveted spot on The Vivant’s favorite Oktoberfest destinations.

Las Vegas, Nevada

We’ll take any excuse for a weekend in Vegas, and there will be no shortage of beer and oom-pah music in Sin City this October. Starting at Paris Las Vegas on October 5, the resort’s Beer Park rooftop bar and grill will offer plenty of excellent German food including a Shock Top Cheddar Bratwurst topped with Shock Top caramelized onions, sauerkraut and spicy-grain mustard. Can’t wait to try it! Even better will be the Oktoberfest beer flight, with three-ounce pours of Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse, Hoegaarden Witbier, Spaten Münchner Hell and Stella Artois. Admission is complimentary, and the folks over at Paris Las Vegas tell me that guests should come dressed in their finest German folk attire.

But if you’re a Las Vegas regular, you’ll want to spend some time outside of the Strip, and get downtown to the Downtown Brew Festival on October 20. I hear they’re going to have more than 250 craft beers on offer from 70 different breweries, along with life music and food from some of Las Vegas’ finest chefs. Get your tickets early, because it sells out fast!

San Francisco, California

If you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area on October 12, bring along some canned goods for the SF-Marin Food Bank for a 10 percent discount on your tasting ticket, and enjoy Cantoberfest, at Off the Grid, at Fort Mason Center. In keeping with the theme of cans, the only-in-San-Francisco event will even showcase can-can dancers, and a special limited edition canned Brut Saison style ale from Magnolia Brewing Company, available only at this event.

Newport, Kentucky

This is as close as you’re going to get to the real thing! Newport Oktoberfest is held from September 28 – 30 under one large tent with all the food, drinks and fun you can ask for. New this year is the exciting Newport Oktoberfest Stakes Stick Horse Racing, Masskrugstemmen Beer Stein Holding Competition and Log Sawing Competition. Also visit over a dozen crafters at the New Bluegrass Marketplace Featuring traditional German fare including brats, metts, goetta balls, cream puffs and much more! Enjoy continuous Live Music featuring Germany’s famous Schoene Zeiten Echo playing authentic German music as well as Steve Owen Musig, Alpen Echos and the Enzian Dance Group and stick around for the post Cincinnati Reds game fireworks.

Paducah, Kentucky

Over in Paducah from October 19 – 21 at the Maiden Alley Oktoberfest, you can dive into a Bavarian-themed food spread provided by Kirchhoff’s Bakery, and a variety of local and regional brews at the 8th annual Maiden Alley Oktoberfest. While you indulge, enjoy a lineup of truly unique musical acts, and shop local and regional artisans. Saturday’s event will also feature a Wiener dog race to kick off the celebration!  $20 registration fee includes a costume for your pup! Start the weekend at the famous Beer Dinner featuring a 4-course German inspired dinner including beer pairings from Dry Ground Brewing Company, and round out the weekend with Sunday brunch at Paducah Beer Werks featuring a Bloody Mary bar with all the fixin’s.

Big Bear Lake, California

We turned to travel blogger Lindsey Shianna, whose blog HelloJetLag.com has always been on our must-read list. Lindsey’s favorite Oktoberfest of all is the one at Big Bear Lake, California, and has been recognized as the number one Oktoberfest in Southern California, and in the top ten in the United States. Lindsey tells us, “I make a point to travel to Big Bear every year because it’s the best party around. They have a ton of contests throughout the weekend, like stein holding competitions, log sawing and a stein carrying contest. They offer 33 different types of beer including options from three different German breweries (Spaten, Warsteiner and Ayinger). And it wouldn’t be So-Cal without craft beer, so Big Bear Oktoberfest always has a Kraft Bierhaus.” The festival runs consecutively for nine weekends between September and November, and is packed every weekend. Lindsey says, “People from all ages come together to party and it gets wild every year!”

Leavenworth, Washington

This one is Washington’s best-kept secret! Bavarian-inspired Leavenworth hosts a yearly Oktoberfest that is the next best thing to Munich. The annual German celebration takes place in the Bavarian-themed mountain town of Leavenworth, where village locals and visitors dress up in their finest dirndls and lederhosen to gather for the Bavarian parade. After the opening ceremony, watch the Mayor of Leavenworth carry out the Bavarian tradition of “tapping the keg.” Then make sure to grab a beer and a brat and listen to live music from bands throughout the U.S., Canada and Germany. Even if you can’t make it for Oktoberfest, Leavenworth is always worth a visit to see this beautiful town, which reproduces a Bavarian village down to the smallest architectural details. To make it even more interesting, you can bypass the mainstream hotels and stay in the Bavarian-themed Leavenworth Tiny House Village.

Torrance, California

The oldest and largest Oktoberfest in the Los Angeles area, the Alpine Village Oktoberfest in Torrance, California, runs between September 7 and October 27. They not only have oom-pah bands, they have oom-pah bands flown in from Germany just for the event. Of course, there are plenty of traditional German foods and brews. Sunday is kid-friendly family day, and you’ll be able to enjoy German-American Heritage celebrations, guest speakers, dance groups, bands, face painting, and even a yodeling contest. While you’re there, you can take a break from the tubas and accordions and enjoy Torrance’s beautiful, crowd-less beaches, and take in some shopping at the third-largest mall in America at the Del Amo Fashion Center.

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Yah, sure. We always think of Minneapolis as the place to go for lutefisk, krydderfedt and the ubiquitous “hot dish” made popular by Garrison Keillor in “A Prairie Home Companion,” but folks there sure know how to put on an Oktoberfest. Minnesota is known for its wonderful locally-made craft beers. If you’re in the Midwest, head on over there to Minneapolis Northwest, the area consisting of Brooklyn Center, Brooklyn Park and Maple Grove, for a central destination for all those seasonal brews. You can join the fun at one of Minneapolis Northwest’s three breweries (or better, visit all three)! Wicked Wort’s 3rd Annual Oktoberfest Celebration will be on October 6, and you can have a chance to enjoy Wicked Wort’s Oktoberfest beer with a brat from Hackenmueller’s Meat Market. At the Blue Wolf Brewing Company, the area’s newest brewery, you can get traditional German-style beers, and have a close look at the tanks and taps to see the brewing process first-hand. Blue Wolf has a rotating tap with various styles and seasonal varieties, and you can bring in your favorite foods to pair with those fabulous brews. We think we’ll leave the lutefisk behind, though. Then you can hop on over to the OMNI Brewing Co’s patio, where you can sample their latest Oktoberfest German wheat beer.

St. Louis, Missouri

The city of St. Louis, Missouri shows off its German heritage this year at the Urban Chestnut Oktoberfest, a three-day event with plenty of music, food and beer. Besides the traditional pretzels and brats, you can also get Porchetta sandwiches and Lebkuchen, those lovely little heart-shaped gingerbread cookies! And, if you’re a food truck fan like all of us here at The Vivant, you’re in luck, the best food trucks in St. Louis will be on-site during the festival. Also for the first time this year, they’re bringing in a festival market, featuring local artists and vendors. The festival will be held at the Midtown Brewery & Biergarten. Entry is FREE at Oktoberfest St. Louis. Festival-goers may buy an authentic 1-liter glass stein for $12 at the festival and get 1-liter fills for $12.

Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

Why do we love Lehigh Valley’s Oktoberfest so much? Three words: Wiener Dog Parade. Lehigh Valley is only about 90 minutes west of New York City, and from October 5 – 7 and 12 – 14. We go for the wiener dogs, but there’s also endless food and music, a bratwurst eating contest, and a fire dance cabaret. Set to the backdrop of the iconic blast furnaces of the former Bethlehem Steel, Oktoberfest is the perfect time for families to listen to live polka, enjoy authentic German food, experience axe wielding lumberjacks of the Great Lakes Timber Show, witness ice sculptors in an elimination style competition and cheer on their favorite dachshund as they race to the finish line.

Nashville, Tennessee

There are so many great things to do in Nashville, I don’t know where to begin. It’s no surprise that this southern city is home to the oldest-running, and second-largest Oktoberfest in North America. The festival runs from October 11 – 14, and Von Elrod’s Beer Garden & Sausage House is right in the middle of the action, and there’s no better place to start for an authentic beer hall experience. They have 36 taps, hand-made sausages, house-made pretzels with beer cheese, a covered patio and a massive beer garden. If you’re like me, you like to get in early and stay for a while. You can’t go to Nashville and not enjoy the music, so be sure to check out Von Elrod’s Vontoberfest, a sort of pre-Oktoberfest Oktoberfest, takes place from October 5 – 7, where they have a lineup of more than two dozen artists, including Ying Yang Twins and Nappy Roots.

Galveston, Texas

Galveston Island’s Island Oktoberfest, held at the First Evangelical Lutheran Church, is so much fun it almost makes me want to become a Lutheran. There will be plenty of authentic German food and drink, shopping for fine arts, crafts and gifts, and a lively auction. Leave it to the Lutherans – most of us forget about good German wine and only focus on the beer for Oktoberfest, but here, you’ll find a good variety of German style wines as well. Plenty of kid-friendly activities too, with an expanded kids’ zone with a climbing wall, mechanical bull and a petting zoo!

Reno/Tahoe, Nevada

I’ve always enjoyed Reno, Nevada for all of its great local breweries, and it’s truly one of the great beer cities of the West. What better way to celebrate beer’s favorite holiday? The best place to start is at The Depot, Nevada’s first combined brewery and distillery, housed in a renovated train station, where you can drink unlimited amounts of their original Depot Oktoberfest brew. For a $60 entrance fee, you get a commemorative stein, schnitzel, bratwurst and pretzels, and beer from seven other local breweries. Over at the Atlantis Resort they’re going all out, with an $85 ticket that includes an extensive German menu that includes one of my all-time favorite desserts, Black Forest Cake. You’ll also get unlimited Sam Adams, and a special Oktoberfest gift.

Kansas City, Missouri

Kansas City, here I come! The Kansas City Bier Company and Crown Center is hosting the KC Oktoberfest on October 5 – 6 at the Crown Center, and this is one you’ll not want to miss. It’s modeled after the traditional Munich Oktoberfest in Germany, with world-class music and entertainment and a great menu of traditional Bavarian dishes. Crown Center is the perfect setting for a festival like this one! At the main stage, the music will play and the beer will pour under the big Bier Halle tent. They’ll have bier-hall type tables under the tent, which always lends itself to a more social atmosphere, and you just can’t help hoisting your mug and saying “Prost!” to your neighbor!

Huntington Beach, California

Yes, it’s more wiener dogs! It’s a thing for Oktoberfest, and it’s hard to resist. Huntington Beach’s Oktoberfest Dachshund Weiner Dog Race is the cutest event in California, and the dogs dress up in adorable hot dog costumes. The dog races are held every Sunday from 3pm to 4pm from September 9 through October 28 at Old World Huntington Beach, which is known for its wonderful German restaurant as much as it is for its famous Oktoberfest celebration. There’s a dog-friendly patio with food, beer, and cute pups – and the folks over there tell me, “everyone’s a wiener!”

Somerville, New Jersey

Pumpkin beer is something that everyone has to try at least once, and they’ll have it in Somerville, New Jersey at their sixth annual Oktoberfest, on September 29. I especially love towns like this where there is a walkable downtown! One of the fastest growing industries in Somerville is craft beer, so there’s no better place for an Oktoberfest. They’ll also have plenty of traditional Oktoberfest brews (including that pumpkin beer), food highlighting the local restaurant scene, and live music. And although not traditionally an Oktoberfest drink, there will be mead – a delicious honey wine that I can’t get enough of! Besides their giant beer pong game, there will be a brat eating contest, so show up hungry!

Helen, Georgia

I’m in love with Helen! The city in Georgia, that is. Deep in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, there’s a little bit of Bavaria, and it’s called Helen. I love Oktoberfest in Bavarian-themed towns like this, and the city of Helen has been doing it for 48 years, and they know how to do it right! From German music, food and drinks, you can chicken dance to your heart’s content, but the best thing is that it doesn’t stop there. Visitors have plenty of other activities, like the Adventure Lodges of Georgia-Unicoi State Park, encompassing some 1,063 acres of natural beauty between the Chattahoochee National Forest and Alpine Helen. And if you’re looking for a little more adventure, Nacoochee Adventures offers zipline canopies, the Thriller Giant Swing, and a challenging, three-level, 27-element climbing apparatus. One thing I’ve noticed when visiting some of these Bavarian-themed cities is that the best ones have authentic restaurants and cafes that remind me of Europe, and I’ll always be on the lookout for an authentic bakery. Helen has the goods there too, with Hofer’s Bakery & Café, a Bavarian bakery with very authentic European style pastries.

Carlsbad, California

There are a lot of cities that call themselves craft beer capitals of America, but Carlsbad, in San Diego County, is definitely a strong contender. With 114 breweries and brewpubs, San Diego County is definitely the place to be! And the coastline there certainly doesn’t hurt, either. Carlsbad’s Oktoberfest, held by Rotary International, gives back to the Carlsbad community, with proceeds going to Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation–which aims to preserve both the lagoon and the ecological reserve that resides in Carlsbad—and Solutions for Change, which has been combating family homelessness in North County since 1999. Do people in California yodel? Well, it’s not something they often brag about, but at Carlsbad’s Oktoberfest the yodeling contest showcases the local talent – and of course, there’s plenty of live music from talented artists including Bluebirds, and The Last Call.

San Diego, California

San Diego County has a lot going on in October, and the La Mesa Oktoberfest attracts over 100,000 visitors every year. This one isn’t just your typical beer-and-brats Oktoberfest. My favorite Oktoberfest feature – wiener dog races – are part of La Mesa’s celebration, and they even have an entire Dackeldorf Dachshund Village. Two large music stages offer non-stop music – but if oom-pah isn’t your thing, local and regional rock bands, DJs, and cover pop bands will be there too, including great locals including The Smokin’ Cobras, Slower, and Rising Star. The event, from September 28 – 30, I’m planning on getting a Hofbrauhaus Biergarten Pass, to try out those giant bratwursts, and a twisted pretzel they tell me is the size of a small child.

Bartlett, New Hampshire

There’s more to New Hampshire than leaf peeping! The Attitash Oktoberfest, at the Attitash Mountain Resort in Bartlett (October 6 – 7) is the real deal. King Ludwig’s Band will be there with authentic Bavarian music, and the Biergarten will feature 20 different local and regional brewers! Attitash Oktoberfest gained some notoriety when it was featured in the Travel Channel’s round-up of best family-friendly Oktoberfests, so bring the kids. At the nearby Attitash Mountain Resort, you can also take advantage of family activities like chairlift rides and ziplines, and their mountain coaster.

Great Northern Catskills, New York

Hunter Mountain Oktoberfest’s four free weekends of Oktoberfest celebration, from September 22 through October 14, is definitely a winner in our book. Did I say it was free? This one promises a great time, with local craft vendors, and the skyride to the summit of Hunter Mountain is a must-do. Every weekend they will have a different specialty event, including “Color in the Catskills,” a motorcycle rally, and Ciders of the Catskills with hard cider tasting. The Monster Energy Aerial Stunt Show and the Eurocar Rally are on my to-do list this time around!

Mills River, North Carolina

One of my favorite California beers is Sierra Nevada, and this year they are bringing their Oktoberfest to Mills River, North Carolina on October 13. Sierra Nevada partnered with Germany’s Weihenstephan Brewery, the oldest brewery in the world, to brew up their special Oktoberfest beer, and I can’t wait to try this one. It’s a malty lager with a subtle hop character. Of course, the Sierra Nevada taproom kitchen has all the traditional German food favorites and Bavarian pretzels. Ethere’s plenty of music and fun, from an 11-piece brass band — No BS! Brass out of Richmond, Virginia — to a party-polka band out of nearby Asheville, music will fuel the fun. Show off your best moves during the chicken dance competition, and then proudly display your ‘stache during the mustache-off. Lederhosen and dirndls encouraged. And if that’s not enough, this area is home to some of the best glassblowers in the country, and artists will be on hand to show off their skill during live glassblowing demonstrations.

New Ulm, Minnesota

There’s just something special about Oktoberfest in Minnesota, and New Ulm’s German heritage is evident right when you drive into town and see that “Willkommen” sign. Fodor’s Travel ranked this one among the best Oktoberfest celebrations in the country. Modeled after the mother of all Oktoberfests in Munich, Germany, New Ulm’s celebration takes place on October 5 – 6, and 12 – 13, with festivities all over town, including their wonderfully historic and quaint downtown, and at the Morgan Creek Vineyards, where you can take part in the popular STOMP! Grape stomp during the first Saturday. There’s so much to see here, I don’t know where to begin, but you can’t miss the Hermann the German monument, a 27-foot tall, sword-wielding chieftain; and any beer-loving visitor to New Ulm will have to stop by the August Schell Brewery, the second-oldest, family-owned brewery in the country and the oldest in Minnesota. New Ulm’s glockenspiel is also worth a look and a listen – it’s one of the world’s few free-standing carillon clock towers, standing 45 feet high, with 37 bells chiming every quarter-hour.

Port Aransas, Texas

One of the best beach towns around is the Texas Gulf Coast, and Port Aransas, Texas is bringing back their Beachtoberfest after the first one was cancelled in 2017 following Hurricane Harvey. True to its Texan roots, Beachtoberfest will feature the island’s first annual beef festival, along with a regional cooking competition that’s part of the World Food Championships. This is the largest competition in food sport, and in this inaugural event, top chefs will compete over three nights at nine different restaurants, culminating at the Grand Tasting on October 6. Can’t wait to get some good Texas ‘cue!

Sanford, Florida

Hollerbach’s Oktoberfest German Street Party in historic Sanford, held October 12 – 14, transforms the entire street into a true German folk celebration. The event is known as the “place where Gemütlichkeit happens,” and partygoers can enjoy authentic German food including Sauerbraten, Jägerschnitzel, Bratwurst, and Bavarian pretzels fresh from Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Café, as well as generous glasses of imported German beer, wine and Schnapps. Live entertainment includes performances from groups such as Jimmy & Eckhard (traditional German music), Sonnenschein Express (Alpine/Oktoberfest show band), the Alpenrose Schuhplattler Verein Dancers and more! And naturally, you’ll want to dress the part, but if you didn’t pack your lederhosen or your dirndl, you can stop by Hollerbach’s Outfitters to pick one up.

 

Dan Blacharski

Dan Blacharski is editor-in-chief of TheVivant.com.

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