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8 Can't-Miss Oktoberfest Celebrations Across the U.S.
Savor traditional beer, bratwurst and live music without making the pilgrimage to Munich.
There's no need to visit Germany to celebrate Oktoberfest. At these vibrant fests across the country, you'll find plenty of brats, polka music and lederhosen-clad participants.(Getty Images)
As the leaves change colors, the air turns crisp and harvest season begins, thoughts turn to some of the great joys in life: beer and chicken dancing. It's finally Oktoberfest season, when polka is popular, traditional dirndls become high fashion and beer is celebrated across the globe. Oktoberfest celebrations worldwide owe their origin to the Oct. 12, 1810 marriage of Prince Ludwig of the German State of Bavaria to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. The happy couple invited all Munich citizens to a huge party thrown in a field in front of the city gates and all things Bavarian were celebrated, namely beer and horse racing. The fete was such a hit that it eventually became an annual event. As German immigrants settled in different parts of the world, they brought this beloved celebration with them. Today, countries worldwide party like its 1810 with German beer and cuisine, polka bands and folk dancing, while adding local elements that make each Oktoberfest unique. Here are eight annual Oktoberfests celebrated throughout the U.S. in that are worth pulling out the lederhosen for.
[See: 9 Flavorful Fall Festivals.]
Linde Oktoberfest Tulsa
When: Oct. 20-23
Tulsa's Linde Oktoberfest celebrates its 38th year from Oct. 20-23 along the banks of the Arkansas River. Credited with introducing the chicken dance to the U.S. (the polka tune was called the bird dance, but organizers could only muster a chicken costume and the name stuck), Linde is one of the nation's largest and oldest Oktoberfest celebrations. Bavarian beer, cheesecake, Dachshund races, German polka bands and carnival rides give this event a state fair feel perfect for families and friends who want to celebrate Oklahoma's German settler heritage and its (finally) cool fall nights.
When: Oct. 7-8; Oct.14-15
This multi-weekend party bills itself as the next best thing to being in Munich; after all, the entire town is modeled after a Bavarian village. Festivities commence each Saturday at 1 p.m. when the Leavenworth mayor ceremoniously taps the keg, and the beer starts to flow. Bands flown in from Germany keep the polka beat throughout the weekends, and families will enjoy the Kinderplatz play area with a climbing wall and bounce house. Plus, the surrounding streets are lined with vendors selling steins, brats and all other things Bavarian. After celebrating Oktoberfest, don't skip checking out the Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum and its collection of 5,000 shell smashers.
New Braunfels, Texas
When: Nov. 4-13
Texas Hill Country loves to celebrate its German heritage, and no more so during Wurstfest, which has taken place every November since 1961. Originally created as a one-day event to celebrate the local bratwurst and other German cuisine, Wurstfest has grown to a 10-day extravaganza. New Braunfels was established in 1845 by hundreds of German settlers sponsored by Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels, and this celebration of German heritage is still an important part of the community. In addition to days filled with authentic German food, German and local craft beer, music on five stages, art and carnival rides, make sure to check out what was once billed as the 17,000-bottle-strong "World's Largest Beer Bottle Collection" showcased in the Der Spass Haus. Though no longer the largest beer bottle collection across the globe, it's still worth checking out.
When: Every weekend in October
Known for its vineyards and wineries established by German settlers in the 1840s, Hermann adds beer to its repertoire each weekend in October. Hermann's Oktoberfest emphasizes music from polka to rock, and a variety of acts perform at various wineries throughout the month. The Hermann Wurst Haus and other restaurants offer their finest German cuisine, and the Deutschheim State Historic Site, the Historic Hermann's Museum and Pin Oak Farms explain the area's rich German history.
New Ulm Oktoberfest
New Ulm, Minnesota
When: Oct. 14-15.
Modeled off of the Munich celebration, New Ulm's Oktoberfest extravaganza kicks off with a Germanic-American Day Parade, horse-drawn trolley rides, stein-holding contests, Glockenspiel concerts and, of course, tours with plenty of samplings from the local Schell's Brewery.
Panama City Oktoberfest
Panama City, Florida
When: Oct. 22
German beer and music flow through downtown Panama City, along with the favorite Florida pastime of college football in traditional biergartens across the area. Local breweries, such as Props Craft Brewery out of Fort Walton Beach and Nivol Brewery from Panama City, are well represented as well. Check Panama City's Oktoberfest Facebook page for complete music and activity updates.
Ruidoso, New Mexico
When: Oct. 14-15.
You might think of the arid desert when you picture southern New Mexico, but Ruidoso sits surrounded by snowcapped mountains that contain the country's southern-most ski area and buildings that mirror a Bavarian style. Plus, the area boasts a healthy love of sausage and beer. Members of the German Air Force train at nearby Holloman Air Force Base, and this influx of German families has brought an appreciation for German culture to the area, as well as to its grocery stores, where you can find all manner of imported German goods. For the past 34 years Ruidoso has hosted an Oktoberfest to make its German guests feel at home, and after all, who doesn't love a good party? Albuquerque polka bands Die Polka Schlingels and Swingshift provide the oompah, and the Kinderhall will keep the kids entertained with games and activities. Art booths line the streets downtown and beer from New Mexico's impressive craft beer scene, as well as labels from Germany, abound.
When: Throughout October
Helen lives up to its slogan as "the charm of Bavaria in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains" for the whole month of October with a nonstop Oktoberfest celebration. When logging in the mountainous area declined in 1969, the city reinvented itself as a Bavarian alpine town and courted tourists. The move paid off, and today Helen is the third most-visited city in Georgia. With the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains, cobblestone streets and shops and hotels styled after Bavarian cottages, Helen feels like Oktoberfest year-round. Bus tours bring in guests from Atlanta to clank steins and revel in the Gemütlichkeit (friendliness) of this unique city.
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Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.
Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.
Edited by Liz Weiss.
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