With almost 20 percent of Americans claiming German ancestry, and many of them looking to connect to their roots in a festive way each year, you'll find the traditional fall festival Oktoberfest in nearly every major U.S. city. And with many other Americans simply looking to enjoy cultural gatherings with plenty of beer, food from Germany, and live music, Oktoberfest is a beloved event in the United States.
Oktoberfest is celebrated every fall from approximately mid-September until early October. Oktoberfest season starts in September because its final day typically has a fixed spot on the calendar. The event has been celebrated in Germany—and especially in Bavaria—since 1810, when what started as prenuptial festivities for a royal wedding turned out to be so popular that the local folks decided to recreate the joy the following year.
Oktoberfest in the United States roughly follows the same calendar as the one in Germany, and includes lots of beer drinking, bands playing oompah (deep brass instruments), and German food like bratwurst and knockwurst.
More than half a million revelers visit Cincinnati, Ohio, each year for Oktoberfest, making it the largest in the U.S. In fact, Oktoberfest Zinzinnati is the second largest Oktoberfest in the world after the one in Munich. In addition to many stages of music and more than 200 food items for sale from various vendors, Oktoberfest Zinzinnati is overflowing with more than 100 varieties of the beloved beverage beer. The event has also become known for featuring the "World's Largest Chicken Dance."
Who can forget Ferris Bueller singing "Danke Schön" on a float at the German heritage parade in the film "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," filmed mainly in Chicago, Illinois? Indeed, German roots run deep in Chicago, which makes it one of the best places in the country for Oktoberfest revelry. Get your beers and brats at a handful of great Chicago Oktoberfest events, one of the most popular being Oktoberfest Chicago at St. Alphonsus Church.
German heritage is very prevalent in Western Pennsylvania, so it's fitting that the Pittsburgh area has a couple of Oktoberfest events worth checking out. The best known Pittsburgh area Oktoberfest festivals include the Pennsylvania Bavarian Oktoberfest, which has about 60,000 attendees and over 20 years of history, and the Penn Brewery Oktoberfest in its biergarten, with a special Oktoberfest beer brewed for the occasion.
St. Louis, Missouri, has a sizable German community, so there are several places where you can celebrate. Check out the top Oktoberfest options in St. Louis, the largest of which is Soulard Oktoberfest, an event also offering a wine garden and live music. Bring your little ones to the Budweiser Brewery Oktoberfest on Family Day each Sunday of this two-week event for face painting, bounce houses, and a petting zoo.
It's no surprise that sprawling Los Angeles, California, has many Oktoberfest celebrations from which to choose. The German-themed event in Los Angeles ranges from traditional festivals, such as the long-running Alpine Village in Torrance and Old World in Huntington Beach to Oktoberfest DTLA in Pershing Square, a park in trendy Downtown Los Angeles where you'll find tasting packages, local bands, and dancing.
The nation's capital and the surrounding area boast numerous Oktoberfest events, ranging from beer bashes at various local breweries to Fort Belvoir Oktober Fest, which offers games, carnival rides, music, and dancing along with German food and beer. Learn more about all the Oktoberfest events in Washington, D.C.
If there's an event that revolves around drinking, you can be sure that New Orleans, Louisiana, will be up for celebrating. While New Orleans is not known for its Germanic culture, there are many pubs, clubs, and beer gardens where you can honor Oktoberfest in New Orleans. The biggest of these celebrations is at the Deutsches Haus, which celebrates for three weekends with plenty of beer, dachshund races, and chicken dancing.
There are a few places to celebrate Oktoberfest in Atlanta, Georgia, including the city's namesake, Oktoberfest Atlanta, at Historic Ward Park, which includes games, music, and, of course, beer and food from Germany. If you're willing to head a little further out, the nearly two-month-long festival in nearby Helen, Georgia, is the longest-running Oktoberfest in the United States.
Phoenix, Arizona, is still hot in September—a perfect excuse to have a beer or three! There are many different places to celebrate Oktoberfest in Phoenix and take in the beer, bands, and wienerschnitzel. In downtown Tempe, Four Peaks Oktoberfest offers many stages of live entertainment from polka to live bands.
Fun celebrations of beer and food are to be found at several Oktoberfest events in the Reno/Tahoe area. Take in a concert by a 20-piece Bavarian band or compete in the Oktoberfest Games at Squaw Valley. Typical games include beer barrel rolling competitions and a bratwurst toss.
The great state of Texas has a little bit of everything, including several German communities, some of which still speak Texas German. For Oktoberfest activities, the best places to visit are New Braunfels, where the 10-day Wurstfest attracts approximately 100,000 visitors annually, and Fredericksburg Oktoberfest, a weekend-long celebration of German heritage, food, music, and art in the state's most famous German settlement.
Washington, Oregon, and Idaho are splendid in the fall, perfect for donning lederhosen (leather breeches) and enjoying German beer. Some of the best known Oktoberfest celebrations in the Pacific Northwest are worth the trip, including the large Leavenworth, Washington, event that spans three weekends of festivities at four different venues.
Just about every state in the Southeast has a big Oktoberfest celebration full of merriment for both locals and tourists. Some of the region's best events include large festivals in Richmond, Virginia, and Cape Coral, Florida, among other places.