What started out as a celebration to mark the marriage of two Bavarian royals in 1810 has turned into a global annual kegger. The mother of all Oktoberfests is a 16-day, beer-fueled party in Munich, Germany, that has spawned countless imitations. Here are a few in America that will be worth your time and sobriety.
Oh my! George Takei!
The country’s largest Oktoberfest celebration draws a crowd of more than 500,000, and it’s no surprise why. Cincinnati’s German community has been a prominent presence since the 1800s. The party takes up six blocks and is free. But perhaps the biggest draw this year will be the World’s Largest Chicken Dance, hosted and led by “Star Trek” and Internet legend George Takei.
The Napa Valley of beer
Sept. 27-29, Oct. 4-6
Though it doesn’t have strong German roots, it’s no surprise the Mile High City boasts what USA Today and Maxim magazine have touted as the best Oktoberfest in the United States. Denver appears to be vying for the title of America’s Beer Capital with its respected breweries, brewpubs and the largest beer festival in the country. Oktoberfest Denver will offer the requisite “Food, Bier, Music and Stein Hoisting” at its fest. In addition, David Hasselhoff loyalists will be pleased to hear that the 5K run, Das Hustlehoff, will pay tribute to The Hoff, and each runner will receive a free Das Hustlehoff shirt.
If you are longing for an Oktoberfest experience closer to the real thing, head to one of these.
Oct. 4-5, 11-12, 18-19
Once the headquarters for the Great Northern Railway, the city of Leavenworth found itself struggling after the railroad relocated early in the 1900s. In 1962, a committee was formed, its sole task to revitalize the city’s economy — by turning Leavenworth into a replica of a Bavarian village.
Sept. 19-Oct. 27
Helen is a former logging town that underwent a similarly Bavarian transformation. Once there, you can also take in the late-October fall foliage.
Although Michigan is synonymous with American beer, Frankenmuth, Michigan’s Little Bavaria, promotes its German heritage and boasts the first Oktoberfest outside of Munich to be officially sanctioned by the mayor of Munich, so you know this one has to be good.
For the procrastinators
The Munich Oktoberfest ends the first weekend in October, and in case you have too much on your plate to participate in a timely manner, there are a number of celebrations that are planning to oompah-pah well into the end of October. Tulsa Oktoberfest is one of the most popular celebrations around the country, and for good reason: namely, keg-rolling contests. But this year’s celebration has already been hit with controversy before the first pitcher has even been poured: They’re doing away with the 64-ounce pitchers and replacing them with 34-ounce souvenir steins. Many are crying foul at the downsizing, but will probably just end up drowning their tears in steins full of beer.
Close to home
Vermont has the highest number of breweries and pubs per capita, with labels like Magic Hat calling the Green Mountain State home. Visit VermontVacation.com to book one of six Oktoberfest-themed Beer Lovers Getaways, which include brewery tours, tastings and other ale fun. We’d recommend booking a ticket on the Green Mountain Railroad’s Fall Beer & Wine Tasting Train, which takes you on a scenic route along with your Oktoberfest experience.