Oktoberfest in the U.S. has become a major Fall attraction to experience and celebrate German tradition and culture. But while cities and towns nationwide throw down the gauntlet to present a great venue of all things German, there’s a few standouts that reign as the best places to celebrate Oktoberfest in the U.S.! These incredible international-theme fairs bring out the best polka music and dance, a great tasting Bavarian foods and that almighty spotlight Oktoberfest beverage; lots and lots of BEER!
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Before we get started on our list of best places to celebrate Oktoberfest in the U.S., let’s take a moment to learn what is Oktoberfest and how it came to be as well as why this annual October festival event has become so popular!
What is Oktoberfest?
First, the yearly Fall event is spelled Oktoberfest, not Octoberfest. According to the Clemson Cooperative Extension, the month of October is spelled with a K in the German language. Most non-German festivals keep this spelling to honor the origin.
The first Oktoberfest originated in Munich, Germany in October of 1810 when Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese Charlotte Luise Friederike Amalie von Sachsen-Hildburghausenn of Saxony-Hildburghausen.
To celebrate the newlyweds, wedding invitees got to enjoy almost 3 weeks of fun festivities including parades, horse races, games and beer-drinking parties in front of the city gates.
Since, the world’s largest Bavarian folk fair and beer festival has morphed into a yearly event that’s bigger than Mardi Gras. The great thing is attendees no longer need a formal invitation to partake in Oktoberfest events.
Today, this all out party festival attracts millions of visitors worldwide! And it’s evolved with more things to do and experience.
Oktoberfest is officially held in Munich from September 17 until the first Sunday in October or October 3rd, whichever comes later.
Besides Munich, there are also other towns in Germany that host their own versions of Oktoberfest celebrations. And while they may not be as large or famous as Oktoberfest in Munich, they still offer a taste of the traditional festivities.
If you are headed to Germany during the month of September and October, definitely check out the Oktoberfest events in Stuttgart, Hamburg, Berlin, Frankfurt, Cologne, Düsseldorf, Leipzig, Nuremberg, Hannover, and of course, one of our German town favorites, Bremen.
Oktoberfest has since, evolved into a symbol of Bavarian culture known for traditional lederhosen and dirndl attire and it’s fashionable and fun party atmosphere.
The good thing for Americans and U.S. travelers is we don’t have to hop a flight across the Atlantic to enjoy all the goings ons. There’s actually quite a few well-known Oktoberfest locations in the United States that put on respectable events showcasing ‘everything Bavaria’!
The long-time tradition features traditional Bavarian music, folk dance, amusement rides, and lots and lots of eating and beer slogging!
What authentic German foods are at Oktoberfest events?
In case you haven’t gotten to experience one, Oktoberfest is the ultimate eating and drinking event of the year.
Aside from specialized German cuisine restaurants, nowhere else in America will you get to sample the vast array of different Bavarian foodie favorites all in one place.
Oktoberfest celebrations are a great way to experience authentic German cuisine and culture.
Now, we all know beer and pretzels make the perfect traditional foodie marriage, right? So the right thing to do when attending any Oktoberfest event, definitely make it a point to try a Brezn!
Served warm and topped with salted crystals, the soft, doughy pretzels are seriously ‘all that’ when topped with mustard (or cheese) and washed down with big swigs of German brewski!
Trust me, these are far better than those soft pretzels you get at ball games and food truck vendors at state fairs.
And let’s not forget all the different types of sausages from the well-known bratwurst to curry wurst and weisswurst; all served with vinegar-based mustard. Oh, and don’t leave out one of my authentic favorites, German sauerkraut!
And lastly, you’ll definitely want to take home a bag of elaborately decorated Lebkuchenherzen. These amazingly delicious gingerbread heart cookies are scripted with German messages.
Why is beer the beverage of choice at Oktoberfest?
Let’s be real here. Oktoberfest is essentially ‘all about the beer’ in atmosphere, German tradition and culture.
If you’re more of an foo foo umbrella drink or hardcore bourbon drinker, you’ll be hard-pressed to fit in at an Oktoberfest celebration. Because those sweet boat drinks and throat-burning hard liquors (except for the well-know Jägermeister) just aren’t tradition of Oktoberfest as they are for St. Patrick’s Day.
That said, German liquors may be found at the local pubs and bars. It’s just that stiff cocktails aren’t the signature beverage at Oktoberfest.
So, what’s a girl ta do? Well, bring on the Zicki Zacki! Beer it is!
In fact, a special beer is brewed just for the occasion. Also known as Wiesn beer or simply, Oktoberfest beer, the Märzen lager is brewed in March. Hence, why it’s named Märzen. Once the beer is kegged, it’s stored in cool keg cellars until they’re tapped for Oktoberfest.
Oktoberfest Märzen beer is characteristically a rich amber to even a deep golden color. It’s brewed with a blend of light and dark Munich malts that gives it a perfect balance of malt with hints of toasty, bread and caramel notes.
What is the Oktoberfest attire?
Of course, there’s no requirement to wear traditional Oktoberfest attire. But, that old quote, ‘when in Rome, do as Romans do’ is quite fitting when attending an Oktoberfest celebration.
Wearing German attire and Bavarian costumes are an important part of the festival’s cultural experience as the food and drink!
Both (German or fake Germans) men and women often dress in specific German clothing that reflects Bavarian traditions.
You may see the ladies donning long braids and wearing their Dirndl (or Tracht) with decorative buttons and lacing and apron.
And of course, the German dudes of all ages may be wearing their traditional lederhosen, and suspenders, and knee-highs. They both may be wearing the iconic Bavarian hat or headband to complete their look.
Do you have to be German to attend an Oktoberfest?
I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to be of German heritage to attend an Oktoberfest. Just like St. Patricks Day celebrations, you too, can certainly play German for a day!
So, now you know what all the hoopla is surrounding what Oktoberfest is about, let’s now dive in to see the best places to celebrate Oktoberfest in the U.S.! Is there an Oktoberfest near me? (meaning you!)
10 Best Places to Celebrate Oktoberfest in the U.S.
Popular German Towns in America
Having been there myself a few times (because it’s one of our favorite small towns to visit!), I can personally attest that EVERYDAY is Oktoberfest in Helen, Georgia!
This bustling alpine village replicates the cobblestone streets of Germany’s famed Bamberg or Lindau. Lots of colorful shops pepper the scenic town and the dreamy aroma of authentic German fare fills the nostrils of foodies from all over.
Nestled in the wooded Appalachian Mountains along the Chattahoochee River in northwest Georgia, this Bavarian village leaves no cobblestone unpolished when it comes to celebrating Oktoberfest every Fall!
Complete with polka and German music, beer steins, Bavarian foods and traditional lederhosen and dirndl attire, Helen, Georgia never misses a beat in bringing in locals and out of town visitors.
Referred to as Oktoberfest Zinzinnati, the annual Oktoberfest celebration held in the Buckeye state! Cincinnati hosts one of the largest Oktoberfest celebrations in the United States; drawing tens of thousands of visitors each year.
It’s because Cincinnati has a rich and noble German heritage. The Queen City hosts one of the largest Oktoberfest celebrations in the United States, featuring German music, food, and beer along the city’s Ohio River waterfront.
The nation’s largest Oktoberfest will convert downtown Cincinnati’s 5th Street into a vibrant Bavarian village serving up German cuisine, entertainment, family friendly attractions and yes, beer.
Check out Oktoberfest Zinzinnati video or the Running of the Wieners!
Frankenmuth is well known as “Michigan’s Little Bavaria”. Held every September, the charming Mitten state town hosts an Oktoberfest with German music, food, beer, and cultural displays.
In fact, Frankenmuth Oktoberfest is one of the most anticipated Fall festivals before the cold harsh winter begins to set in. Listed as one of the 26 Best Fall Festivals in the U.S. for 2023, it comes as no surprise they rank with other popular nationwide events!
Visitors from the upper midwest and beyond can expect a wide variety of authentic German cuisine, including sausages, soft pretzels, spaetzle and schnitzel, sauerkraut, and yes, lots of frothy beer.
Beer is a central element of Oktoberfest, and you can enjoy a range of German and local beers in designated beer tents or beer gardens.
Along with local polka bands and German music, there’s dance performances during the event.
Cultural displays, exhibits, and demonstrations that highlight German traditions and history, arts and crafts, as well as lots of family-friendly activities!
One of the big draws to this exceptional Oktoberfest event is the Frankenmuth Oktoberfest Wiener Dog Races and Dachshund doggy contests such as the best dressed and fattest wiener (dog)!
New Ulm, Minnesota
Dontchaknow that Minnesota’s New Ulm Oktoberfest is one of the best Oktoberfest celebrations in the U.S.!? In fact, New Ulm boasts as being “the most German town in America”.
Founded in the mid 1850s, German immigrants settled in to create a central location where even today, most of the residents claim German ancestry.
So, it’s no wonder New Ulm reigns as having one of the best Oktoberfest celebrations in the U.S. New Ulm’s German inspired celebration takes place during the first two full weekends in October, with festivities happening all over this Minnesota town!
This traditional annual Bavarian festival is modeled after one of the world’s largest celebrations, held each year for several centuries in Munich, Germany.
Listed among the Best Oktoberfest Celebrations in the U.S. by The Travel Channel, Midwest Living, Travel + Leisure, Food & Wine, The Huffington Post, USA TODAY 10 Best, Conde Nast Traveler, Fodor’s Travel, that’s proof enough that New Ulm is the happening place to celebrate Oktoberfest that will be long remembered!
Well, the remembering part may remain questionable.
La Crosse, Wisconsin
La Crosse, Wisconsins larges city on the city’s western border is home to the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
It’s also a popular adventure destination town; offering lots of hiking, fishing and kayaking. However, that’s not all La Crosse is known for.
La Cross is known for being the longest-running Oktoberfest in the Midwest. The town has been raising beer steins and cheering prost to Gemütlichkeit since 1961!
Oktoberfest USA in La Crosse is a multi-day celebration featuring parades, carnival rides, live entertainment, and traditional German food and beer slogging.
Highlights include their parades; the evening Torchlight Afterglow and daytime Maple Leaf. Let’s not forget the all important keg tapping ceremony. And then, may the games begin! Lederhosen games that is!
It’s where their traditional stein holding contest, Oktoberfest USA Medallion Hunt and other forms of friendly competition reigns in friends and foes.
And finally, they close with their annual Festmaster’s Ball. But, you’ll need to plan ahead as tickets are required to take part in some of the events.
Put your dancing shoes on dust off your Lederhosen & Dirndl, grab your bier stein and traipse off to celebrate Oktoberfest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin!
Known for its German history, Milwaukee also reigns as one of the best Oktoberfest celebrations in the Country featuring an exciting mix of German traditions with local flair.
But here’s the thing! Milwaukee doesn’t have just one major Oktoberfest! And why would they? After all, Milwaukee is the Beer Capital of the World!
Which makes perfect sense that there’s 19 Oktoberfest celebrations in Milwaukee! Beer is their specialty. And combined with the heavy German influence, well, let’s just have a bunch of parties!
From local pubs and tap rooms to community organizations, you won’t have to look far to enjoy great German music, beer, authentic Bavarian cuisine, beer, German dance performances, beer, fun games and competitions and yes, more beer! PROST!!
Every October, while the Fall colors present the perfect backdrop for a cool Fall Alpine festival, the Missouri town of Hermann goes all out to celebrate their German heritage. As they call it, Oktoberfest Hermann Experience, this Bavarian celebration ranks as a Midwest favorite.
They roll out the welcome mat for visitors to celebration of the town’s German heritage, the autumn season, good food, wine, beer, and music.
And though Hermann is technically a wine town since 1837, they love to change it up by offering visitors to come get a taste of brew and Bavarian foods.
According to Visit Herman, the town is is commonly believed that the Hermann area’s resemblance to the Rhine Valley prompted scouts from the German Settlement Society of Philadelphia to choose Hermann for a colony on the American frontier.
Hermann’s Oktoberfest showcases its German heritage with wine tastings, parades, live music, arts and crafts vendor show, and incredible local talent.
Since 1969, the Denver Oktoberfest celebration features a mix of German and Colorado culture! It’s where the Mile High City enjoys brews, booze and Bavarian foods!
For 2 consecutive weekends, this Bavarian celebration is chocked full of fun events that will make you a beer drinking pro!
There’s something for Oktoberfest pro’s and first timer’s. So grab your stein, throw on your lederhosen and join in on the fun-filled event schedule.
There’s lots of intriguing competitive events such as the Stein Hoisting contest, Long Dog Derby race, German costume contest, Keg Bowling,
It’s a given that when you visit the Pacific Northwest in the Fall, you’ve got to visit Leavenworth in Washington State!
In fact, our son still raves about visiting this authentic German town and Alpine Village when he was stationed up near Seattle years ago.
Leavenworth’s Bavarian Village is chocked full of Tudor Revival architecture buildings where you can shop and enjoy its’ many german restaurants!
And though the town is literally Oktoberfest year round, Leavenworth stretches the welcome mat out a little further during this incredible fun-filled, family-friendly, Fall event.
Leavenworth Oktoberfest is complete with cultural dress, parades, dance performances, live music, traditional food and the popular biergartens. It’s like attending Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany but without actually having to step foot on an airplane.
But I must, for a lack of better words, ‘warn ya’ that you’ll need to make advance reservations due to the popularity of Leavenworth’s Oktoberfest. Leavenworth’s Oktoberfest draws tens of thousands of locals and visitors from beyond!
Hence, why it’s one of the best places to experience Oktoberfest in the entire U.S.!
Founded by German immigrants in the mid-1800s, Fredericksburg’s heritage is celebrated throughout the year, especially during Oktoberfest.
Located near San Antonio, it’s a big Texan town that boasts its’ Bavarian roots. And though its’ German heritage is prevalent throughout the year, the town’s Oktoberfest celebration is much to talk about.
Fredericksburg puts on quite a show during their Oktoberfest celebration; complete with tons of German foodie favorites, beer, music, dance and other fun stuff to do.
In fact, local Texans sort of forget they’re Texans for a couple days as they enjoy lots of beer gulping, kraut chowing, polka dancing and yodeling in their lederhosen!
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Plan Your Trip to Oktoberfest
If you’re planning on taking your RV to visit any of these Oktoberfest festivals, it’s important to know before you go! By planning ahead of time, your experience will be greater and less stressful.
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Wrapping up our best places to celebrate Oktoberfest
As you see, these best places to celebrate Octoberfest in the U.S. are a great alternative to flying to Europe!
Just keep in mind that due to their popularity, we highly recommend planning your trip well ahead of time and seeking accommodations in advance.
Also, Oktoberfest dates, event details and COVID guidelines may vary according to location. So, always check the prescribed links we’ve listed under each Oktoberfest destination.
So, grab your lederhosen and Dirndl and let’s get your best Zicki Zacke Hoi Hoi Hoi on at any of these amazing Oktoberfest destinations! Raise your glass and do a little jig while chanting, “Oans, zwoa, drei, Gsuffa!” which means “one, two, three, drink!”.
While these Oktoberfest destinations are fun to experience, it goes without saying to please drink responsibly! If you’re going do a little imbibing, make a plan to get to your campsite or lodging safely via Uber, Lyft, taxi or designated driver.
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