Almost 20 percent of Americans can claim to have German ancestry and like to connect to their roots in a festive way each year. Many others simply enjoy cultural gatherings with plenty of beer, food from Germany, and live music. No matter what attracts you, the traditional fall festival Oktoberfest is a beloved event in many cities around the United States.
Oktoberfest is celebrated every fall from approximately mid-September until early October. Oktoberfest takes place starting 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 gobbling down German food like bratwurst and knockwurst. Check out some of the most popular places to celebrate Oktoberfest across the USA.
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 these 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 for Family Day each Sunday of this two-week event—look for face painting, bounce houses, and a petting zoo.
It's no surprise that sprawling Los Angeles, California has as many as 10 different 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 District Oktoberfest's beer bashes at local breweries in Chinatown 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, DC.
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, the most interesting of which is a party bus that takes revelers to the small town of Helen, Georgia, decked out to look like an authentic German village. Also check out Oktoberfest Atlanta at Historic Ward Park for games, music, and of course, beer and food from Germany.
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. Take a look at this round-up for some of the best known Oktoberfest celebrations in the Pacific Northwest. The large Leavenworth, Washington event is sure to be fun with three weekends of festivities at four venues.
Just about every state in the Southeast has a big Oktoberfest celebration full of merriment for both locals and tourists. Check out these suggestions of Oktoberfest events for the area, with some large festivals in Richmond, Virginia and Cape Coral, Florida, among other places.