As fall arrives, Oktoberfests are springing up across the U.S., thousands of miles from where their original debut took place. In October 1810, the citizens of Munich gathered to celebrate the marriage of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig (later King Ludwig I of Bavaria) to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. The royal celebrations included feasts, beer, and horse racing in front of Munich’s city gates, and after a celebration so grand, it was hard to deny it should become a tradition.
Today, the annual autumnal celebration gives Germans, their descendants, and anyone who enjoys a good festival the chance to toast their roots with a stein, some sausage, and a side of spätzle. Looking for a place to throw back a beer and enjoy traditional German polkas? Here are 10 American Oktoberfests to visit this year.
1. ZINZINNATI OKTOBERFEST // CINCINNATI, OHIO
September 16-18, 2016
Cincinnati has a rich German heritage, and was once considered part of the "German Triangle"—one of three Midwestern cities (including Milwaukee and St. Louis) where a large majority of the German immigrant population settled during the late 1800s. Since 1976, the Zinzinnati Oktoberfest has celebrated the German influence on southwestern Ohio, with more than 500,000 people attending each year. The crowd feasts on Deutschland-inspired favorites, including an average of 3600 pounds of sauerkraut, 80,500 bratwursts and 1875 pound of potato salad, along with German-brewed beers such as Erdinger, Warsteiner, and Weihenstephan. Be sure to get there for the opening festivities—the annual Running of the Wieners—where 100 dachshunds dressed up like hot dogs race through downtown.
2. LINDE OKTOBERFEST // TULSA, OKLAHOMA
October 20-23, 2016
Toward the end of the 19th century, German immigrants made their way to Oklahoma, settling in and sending word to other immigrant families. In 1890, only 739 German-born residents called the then-territory home, but within 20 years, nearly 10,000 Germans lived throughout Oklahoma. German immigrants would go on to greatly influence the area, building churches, launching social clubs, and starting their own newspapers (the state had 16 German-language presses between 1889 and 1920). The Linde Oktoberfest annually recognizes the contributions of German culture to the region, and has celebrated Oktoberfest since 1978. Be sure to snack on authentic sausages, schnitzel, and strudel, not to mention beers by Spaten and Hoegaarden.
3. DENVER OKTOBERFEST // DENVER, COLORADO
September 23 to October 2, 2016
This cowtown is now known for its cool brews, and for that, Colorado can thank German immigrant Adolph Coors, who launched the Coors brewery just outside of Denver in 1873. To pay homage to the state's German background, Denver's Oktoberfest runs two weekends and sees crowds of 350,000 people. This Oktoberfest is considered one of the largest beer festivals in the country, and this year it features sponsorships from German breweries Spaten and Franziskaner (also on tap is the annual Denver Oktoberfest Special Brew, created and supplied by local breweries). Don’t miss the oompah bands, the bratwurst eating contest, or the stein hoisting championships.
4. OKTOBERFEST USA // LA CROSSE, WISCONSIN
September 29 to October 2, 2016
Wisconsin is home to the first kindergarten in America, created by in 1865 by (you guessed it) a German immigrant. Margaretha Meyer Schurz was just one of many Germans to influence Wisconsin, which now celebrates that heritage with the Oktoberfest in La Crosse. This old world fest began in 1961, primarily due to the town’s need for a fall festival. According to fest lore, two German employees at the local G. Heileman Brew Co. (a brewery launched by German immigrant Johann Gottlieb Heileman) suggested an Oktoberfest celebration and the idea took hold. The trademarked Oktoberfest USA features a Lederhosen Luncheon with authentic German food and music, parades, and a craft beer event paying tribute to Heileman’s beer contributions.
5. FRANKENMUTH OKTOBERFEST // FRANKENMUTH, MICHIGAN
September 15-18, 2016
Frankenmuth knows how to throw an authentic Oktoberfest—in fact, it's been approved by its Deutschland originators. In 1996, German Parliament members in Munich gave their "blessing" to Michigan’s oldest German heritage and culture festival and its claim to be a true Oktoberfest. For the past 20 years, Frankenmuth’s fest has taken place at the same time as Munich's Oktoberfest. Organizers focus heavily on authentic music, folk dancing, and food (such as slaw, sauerkraut, spätzle, and sausages), and the brews on tap include some notable imports—Hofbrauhaus is the official German brewery sponsor.
6. STOWE OKTOBERFEST // STOWE, VERMONT
October 1-2, 2016
The town of Stowe, Vermont transforms for a weekend Oktoberfest celebration. Underneath a large tent, this small town of 4000 people gathers for a family-friendly weekend that includes traditional German music and sing-alongs, Schuhplattling (Bavarian folk dancing), and games. But what makes Stowe such an interesting spot for Germanophiles? It was once home to the Trapp Family Singers, and the von Trapp family still operates a lodge in the area. While you won’t find German-brewed beers at this event, the local von Trapp Brewing recreates Deutschland’s tastes with its own lagers.
7. NASHVILLE OKTOBERFEST // NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE
October 7-9, 2016
Nashville uses its Oktoberfest to not only honor its German roots, but also as a fundraiser to restore its historic Germantown district. The Nashville Oktoberfest spans eight blocks through the historic area, outside of downtown Nashville, and showcases traditional German music and oompah bands on three stages. Biergartens are stocked with Paulaner, Hacker-Pschorr, Schöfferhofer, Weihenstephan, and other German beers (last year, the crowds tapped 700 kegs), as well as German wine. But that’s not all this fest uses beer for—a fest-proclaimed "world’s longest" slip 'n slide is a main event, powered with beer instead of water. The festival also includes a weiner dog race and an arts and crafts fair.
8. ALPINE VILLAGE OKTOBERFEST // TORRANCE, CALIFORNIA
September 9 to October 29, 2016
Hosted by a German-inspired tavern and market, the Alpine Village Oktoberfest runs for eight weekends, dishing out sauerkraut, giant pretzels, sausages, and strudel. Entertainment features oompah bands, stein holding contests and other games, while taps readily serve imported Warsteiner, Schöfferhofer, and König Ludwig Weissbier beers. Various special events are planned as well, such as a German-American Heritage celebration or a Bavarian Renaissance Festival.
9. HERMANN OKTOBERFEST // HERMANN, MISSOURI
September 30 to October 30, 2016
As the gateway to the west, many migrant Germany families passed through Missouri in search of new homes, and many stayed, helping to develop the area’s beer and wine industry. Hermann has held onto its German roots, especially celebrating them every weekend in October. The entire town becomes a festival, complete with biergartens, locally brewed lagers, and al fresco dining of sausages, wurst, and other traditional foods. And because Hermann’s German heritage is displayed in its many landmarks, be sure to step inside its historic schools, businesses, and buildings for some self-guided tours of their exhibits.
10. FREDERICKSBURG OKTOBERFEST // FREDERICKSBURG, TEXAS
September 30 to October 2, 2016
Texas isn’t just cowboy culture! This south-central Lone Star State town has a strong German heritage dating back to its founding in 1845 by John O. Meusebach, a German-born baron and local leader who helped make peace with nearby Native American tribes. To celebrate the annual onset of fall, the Fredericksburg Oktoberfest hosts a festival featuring a wide variety of German foods, such as flammkuchen (a pizza-like baked dish), mettwurst (a flavored sausage), pfeffernüsse (spiced cookies), and cold pickled sausages. Brass bands, polka, and oompah music are popular entertainment at this fest, alongside traditional folk dancers and yodellers. And with imported Paulaner, Spaten, Hacker-Pschorr, and Franziskaner, there are plenty of authentic beers from the fatherland. Prost!