Where to Celebrate Oktoberfest in the USA
Way back in 1810, Bavarian commoners were invited to a royal wedding celebration. It was such a rollicking good time that the fall festival became a yearly tradition. Munich's Oktoberfest, as it came to be called, now attracts more than 6 million revelers each year — and it's one of the world's biggest annual parties. But if a trip to Germany isn't in the budget this year, you can still partake in the merrymaking festivities closer to home. U.S. News Travel presents seven of the best Oktoberfest celebrations across the United States.
[In Pictures: Where to Celebrate Oktoberfest in the USA]
For the past 15 years, the idyllic streets of Leavenworth, Wash., have filled with Bavarian cheer, not to mention beer. This Oktoberfest takes place in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, about 115 miles east of Seattle, and expects to bid a willkommen (welcome) to 35,000 visitors this year. The packed entertainment schedule includes oompah bands, polka music and Bavarian-style dancing, as well as a children's Kinderplatz play area, complete with a rock climbing wall and a bounce house. Most of the festivities will take place within the Festhalle and Tent area, located downtown on Front Street. Entry tickets cost $10 on Friday and $20 on Saturday; food and beer cost extra. When your stein runs dry, the city — a reimagination of a Bavarian village — also provides plenty of diversion in the form of Bavarian-themed shops and restaurants.
Cincinnati hosts what's billed as the world's second-largest Oktoberfest celebration, after Munich's own. Perhaps even more impressive than its size, you can attend Oktoberfest Zinzinnati for free. Plus, unique Bavarian-inspired events add to its allure. For instance, there's the Running of the Wieners (as in dachshund dogs), the playing of the nation's largest collection of alpenhorns (long, wooden horns used as musical instruments), a bratwurst-eating contest and even a stein-hoisting competition (whoever keeps his or her beer-filled stein held high the longest, wins). To feed its expected 500,000 partygoers, the festival will offer ample amounts of bratwurst, sauerkraut balls, cream puffs, strudel and more. Wash down these German specialties with a mug full of amber brew. You can choose from Sam Adams, Spaten, Warsteiner or a host of others. You'll find the fest covering six blocks in downtown Cincinnati.
[See: 9 Flavorful Fall Festivals]
With its history of German immigrants dating back to the late 1800s, Glendale, Wisc., is a natural fit for an Oktoberfest celebration. Located just 10 miles north of Milwaukee, Glendale has hosted Munich-modeled festivities (including German brass bands, yodeling and Schuhplattler folk dancing) for more than 60 years. There's also, of course, a steady stream of beer flowing. Pair your brew with some German snacks, like bratwurst, spanferkel (young pig roasted over a spit), pretzels and bienenstich (a dessert filled with vanilla custard and topped with caramelized almonds). The event takes place in Glendale's leafy Heidelberg Park, along the banks of the peaceful Milwaukee River — a serene scene reminiscent of das Mutterland (the Motherland). General admission is $4 in advance and $5 at the door; food and beer cost extra.
Tucked into the side of the soaring Southern Appalachians, the mountainous hamlet of Helen, Ga., has always carried a certain charm. But in the late 1960s, the city underwent a massive revitalization and became a replica of a German village, lending it a delightful alpine appeal. Soon after, city leaders organized a popular fall festival. This year, the idyllic locale is celebrating its 43rd Oktoberfest. The annual Oktoberfest parade, complete with lederhosen, is scheduled for Sept. 14 at noon, but there's plenty of other polka bands and other German-style musicians playing throughout the entire event. You can also bet that the beer and bratwurst will be abundant, so bring some cash to taste the festival fare. Tickets cost $8 Monday through Friday and $10 on Saturday. Admission is free on Sunday.
German immigrants settled Mount Angel, Ore., back in the 1800s, and to this day the Motherland's influence pervades the area. Starting Sept. 12, the city — which sits about 40 miles south of Portland, Ore. — will host its 48th Oktoberfest. Expect a full program of Bavarian bands, music and dancing. Alpine food booths, laden with German treats like sausage and wurst, German chocolate cake, pretzels and more will line the streets of Mount Angel. Golden brews like Weihenstephan, Warsteiner and Konig Ludwig will fill your steins. Several tents — named Biergarten, Wiengarten, Prostgarden and Alpinegarten — will play host to even more brews, food and entertainment. But while the alcohol is plentiful, there's no need to leave your brood at home; the festival provides a "Kindergarten" for children, with entertainment for pint-size attendees, like a petting zoo, face painting and pony rides. Ticket prices vary from $4 to $14, depending on the time of day, and food and drinks are not included.
What started as a couple of Denver shop owners tapping a keg and passing out pretzels in honor of their favorite Bavarian tradition has turned into one of the biggest Oktoberfest celebrations in the country. The Denver Oktoberfest will celebrate its 44th year and organizers expect some 350,000 revelers to join the fray. Events like Keg Bowling, the Long Dog Derby and Das Hustlef Hoff 5K truly make this Oktoberfest one of a kind. While enjoying the jam-packed entertainment schedule won't cost you a dime, you will have to buy tickets for your bratwurst and beer. Each ticket costs $6 or you can buy four tickets for $20. Follow the revelry to Larimer Street, between 20th and 22nd streets.
San Francisco is proof that you don't need an alpine landscape or a recreated German village to join in on the Oktoberfest fun. This city's party — Oktoberfest By the Bay — is short-lived, but it crams a full agenda of Spaten beer, Bavarian food and German entertainment into one weekend. While you nosh on soft pretzels and other German delicacies, two local bands — the Chico Bavarian Band and the Internationals — will provide some German-style tunes. You'll find the party on Pier 48, jutting out onto San Francisco Bay. General admission tickets cost $25, and include entry and access to the entertainment provided. You can purchase tickets online in advance here. Remember to bring extra cash for beer and food.
[In Pictures: Where to Celebrate Oktoberfest in the USA]
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