Once the season shifts to autumn, there’s one favorite German celebration to honor it. Oktoberfest, which began in Munich in 1810, is a two-week beer festival, traveling carnival, and the world’s largest Volksfest (or folk festival). While full, foaming steins, German beer tents, and live music are a huge draw to the event, Oktoberfest also comes alive with competitions, carnival rides and games, dancing, and of course, some deliciously authentic German cuisine.
Now, if you’re not able to catch the next flight to Munich, don’t despair. There are plenty of cities in the United States, coast to coast, known for their Oktoberfest celebrations. Raise a glass in a Bavarian alpine village or road trip out to the closest festival. Here are the best U.S. cities to enjoy (and stay at) during Oktoberfest. Prost!
Nestled into the northern Cascade mountain range and on the banks of the Wenatchee River, you’ll find the charming old-world alpine village of Leavenworth. The town is known for its authentic German flair, ranging from architecture and nutcracker museums to its seasonal festivals—most famously, its Christmas village lighting and one of the largest Oktoberfests in the country. When coming for the latter, you’ll enjoy the ceremonial tapping of the keg, beer gardens, live music and oompah bands, German foods and pastries, and traditional Bavarian clothes and souvenirs for sale.
Though it might surprise you on your trip to the south, Helen is Georgia’s very own Bavarian town, winding along the Chattahoochee River. Its Main Street is decked out in Alpine-style architecture, riverfront German restaurants, and attractions like a mountain coaster and mini golf, all within walking distance. Helen’s Oktoberfest kicks off with a parade in September and features live polka music, a cheerful dance floor, charming downtown shops, and plenty of the Hauptstrasse chicken dance. Make sure to fill up on spaetzle, goulash, and wursts with your stein of ale. Helen has the longest-running Oktoberfest in the country, so you know you’re up for some fun.
Fredericksburg was founded by German immigrants in 1846, making it one of the best cities in the U.S. to celebrate German heritage with an authentic Oktoberfest. While the city keeps its German culture alive year-round, once September rolls along, the streets boom with multiple stages of entertainment—including yodeling contests, Oktubafest, a stein hoist, a Rotary Kraut Run, carnival games and kids activities, and a city of lederhosen-clad locals. If beer isn’t your thing (we won’t tell), Fredericksburg is also the heart of Texas wine country, with plenty of local vineyards to sample with your side of strudel.
Stowe’s famous Trapp Family Lodge (the same Trapp family from the Sound of Music) sponsors the city’s Oktoberfest, hosted at the von Trapp Brewing Bierhall. While a smaller festival, it’s no less hearty, with Austrian and German beer, vendor tents, face painting and family activities, a stein-holding contest, live music, and tasty dishes. With Vermont’s vibrant tree line changing, there’s no better way to kick off fall and scope out ski resorts for winter.
A few hours south of Portland, you’ll find an Oktoberfest rich with expanded family-friendly activities and nearby outdoor adventure. Bend’s high-desert downtown transforms into the Oktoberfest grounds, boasting a kid’s fun zone, a Weiner dog race, yodeling contests, coloring contests, games, and delectable German food, ales, and wines. Oregon is known for its incredible local beer scene, but there’s no need to choose between German or American brews; there’s plenty of time to enjoy both.
Big Bear’s Oktoberfest is ranked California’s #1 Oktoberfest and welcomes around 40,000 guests annually. The forested ski town offers both indoor and outdoor festivities at its Convention Center, which sets the scene with live music performances and old-world ambiance. While there’s plenty of authentic German food to feast on, make sure to leave room for dessert, including strudel with warm vanilla sauce. Come together and raise a glass, enjoy the fall foliage, and dance the day away to German-American music. If you’re worried about missing out on the Oktoberfest experience, head to Big Bear—its extended celebrations last even longer, ending in early November.
Known as the Four Peaks Oktoberfest, Tempe brings the fun for a long weekend of brews, brats, and Bavarian tunes. You’ll find the Oktoberfest grounds at Tempe Town Lake, which is home to two stages of live music, as well as a Weiner dog race, a 5k run, a brat eating contest, and thrilling carnival rides. The event prides itself on bringing just as much entertainment for kids as there is for adults, so there will be no shortage of things to do. Grab some schnitzel, a cold beer, and take a ride on the Ferris wheel.