7 of the Best Oktoberfests in the US
Adventurer & Writer
Leaves are changing and temperatures are dropping. You know what that means—it’s Oktoberfest season. Grab your dirndl and beer stein and make plans to join one of these seven best Oktoberfests in the US. But first, let’s go over some must-know Oktoberfest facts.
What is Oktoberfest?
Oktoberfest began in Munich, Germany, in 1810 to celebrate the marriage of Ludwig I, Prince of Bavaria, to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. The original celebration featured horse races and over the years came to include an agricultural fair and food stalls. By the 20th century, the iconic Oktoberfest beer halls joined the party. Today, each of Munich’s brewers hosts its own beer hall capable of holding thousands of thirsty festival goers. Other festival events include stein holding contests, polka dancing, oompah bands, lively parades and traditional German cuisine.
When is Oktoberfest?
As the name suggests, the first Oktoberfest in Munich was held in mid-October. These days, festivities in Munich begin as early as September and continue through the last Sunday in October. Oktoberfests around the world usually celebrate over selected weekends during this time period.
What to Wear to Oktoberfest?
What people wear to Oktoberfest is half the fun of the celebrations. Traditional garb includes lederhosen for men and a dirndl for women. While cheap costume versions of both of these outfits can be found online or at touristy outfitters, quality, hand-crafted versions make fantastic souvenirs for any visit to Bavaria, regardless of the time of year.
1. Frankenmuth, Michigan
To begin, we head to one of the youngest festivals on the list, held in Frankenmuth, Michigan. Don’t let age fool you, though. Frankenmuth is home to one of the best Oktoberfests in the US for a reason. This epic mid-September weekend of festivities was sanctioned in its inaugural year by the then mayor of Munich, Lord Mayor Christian Ude. Accompanying this honor, Frankenmuth was the first place in the US to import beer from the iconic Munich-based Hofbrauhaus, which has sponsored Frankenmuth Oktoberfest since its inception. Dubbed “Michigan’s Little Bavaria,” the town is idyllic year-round, with a quaint main street and plenty to do and see no matter when you visit.
2. Zinzinnati, Ohio
Of course this list would not be complete without the biggest Oktoberfest in America! In southwest Ohio, the city of Cincinnati boasts the title of “America’s largest Oktoberfest” during their annual Oktoberfest Zinzinnati celebration. The accolade is even backed by the mayor of Munich himself! Over 700,000 people come to this corner of the midwest each year to indulge in German-style music, food, beer and frivolity. According to the festival website, over 3,600 pounds of sauerkraut and 80,000 bratwurst are consumed during Oktoberfest Zinzinnati each year. After indulging in all that Oktoberfest beer, venture south to explore America’s whiskey and bourbon country.
3. La Crosse, Wisconsin
In Wisconsin, the town of La Crosse is where visitors will find one of the best Oktoberfests in the US. The festival began when city leaders were exploring city-wide event options. A local German-owned brewery heard the news and suggested an Oktoberfest celebration. In just a few short years, the endeavor became nationally recognized as “Oktoberfest USA” making the festival in La Crosse one of the most popular and biggest Oktoberfests in America. While today’s festival spans just a brief three-day period, it packs the weekend full of live music, festive performances, plenty of beer, and a parade.
4. Trapp Family Lodge, Vermont
Did you know? The story of the von Trapp family made famous by the film “The Sound of Music” is based on true events. You’re probably wondering what happened to the von Trapps after fleeing war-torn Austria. After touring America as the Von Trapp Family Singers, they settled in northern Vermont and began welcoming guests to their gorgeous mountain lodge in 1950. Today, Trapp Family Lodge is still owned and operated by the von Trapp family and has expanded to include several restaurants, a brewery, and acres of beautiful landscape perfect for hiking, mountain biking and exploring. Each year, the lodge hosts an Oktoberfest celebration, complete with traditional German fare and a stein holding competition hosted in partnership with the U.S. Steinholding Association!
5. Helen, Georgia
The next place on our list of best Oktoberfests in the US is Helen, Georgia. Located at the base of the Appalachian Mountains and the Appalachian Trail, Helen was built for Oktoberfest—literally. In 1969, this little mountain town received a major facelift in an effort to bolster the local economy. John Kollock, the artist who designed the reimagined Main Street, drew inspiration from his time serving in Germany, and specifically Bavaria, during WWII. Today, Helen still boasts one of the biggest Oktoberfest celebrations in the South, if not all of America. The area also has year-round attractions like an alpine mountain coaster, ziplining, hiking and river tubing in the summer.
6. Leavenworth, Washington
Similar to Helen, Leavenworth, Washington, is another Bavarian-inspired village that was developed in the mid 20th century as an economic driver for the original mountain town. Like many communities in the American West, Leavenworth experienced an economic boom in the latter half of the 1800s but fell into decline as the 19th century brought environmental challenges like the Dust Bowl and the historic economic lows of The Great Depression. However, when Leavenworth was rebranded as a quaint alpine village, the agenda included an Oktoberfest celebration. Several other festivals that were started around the same time continue today, including Maifest and the Christmas Lighting Festival. Additionally, Leavenworth also values sustainable travel and has launched their very own “Give A Schnitzel” program to encourage responsible visitation.
7. Denver, Colorado
Lastly, we head to the Mile High City of Denver, Colorado. With roughly 150 breweries located in metropolitan Denver, it’s no surprise that this beer-loving city hosts one of the best Oktoberfests in the US. Spanning two weekends in September, the Denver Oktoberfest pulls out all the stops, including keg bowling, wiener dog races, numerous beer halls and plenty of live entertainment. The best part is that when you’re not enjoying the festivities, the incredible wilderness and outdoor adventures of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains are at your fingertips.
The best Oktoberfests in the US lead visitors to destinations they maybe wouldn’t otherwise consider visiting. However, each of these places is worthy of exploration, no matter the time of year. Grab your lederhosen and dirndl and get ready to celebrate Oktoberfest in America!