When it comes to celebrating German heritage, communities around the Capital Region host some of the best Oktoberfest events in the United States, with dozens to choose from in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. These Oktoberfest events are family-friendly and focused on German beer, food, music, and dancing. While these aren't the only beer festivals in the D.C. area, they are some of the best. Whether you have German ancestry or just want to take part in a different cultural experience, these Oktoberfests, Bier Fests, and special events are worth trying out.
Many of these festivals and gatherings may be canceled or postponed in 2020, so be sure to check the websites of official organizers for the latest details.
The popular Williamsburg, Virginia, amusement park destination Busch Gardens typically hosts its annual Bier Fest from mid-August to early September each year. At this time, you can sample a variety of beer and traditional German food while enjoying live music in this unique Bavarian celebration. The Oktoberfest celebration features 75 beer varieties representing 10 countries, including Southeast Asia, Europe, and the United States; several selections from Virginia-based craft brewers also will be on tap. Access to Bier Fest is included with park admission.
In 2020, Bier Fest has been extended to November 15. Every Friday through Sunday, guests will be able to sip and savor throughout six spacious, outdoor villages—Oktoberfest, Rhinefeld, Ireland, Scotland, France, and New France—while also enjoying select thrill rides. Reservations are required and guests should read the park's new safety guidelines before attending.
From late September through mid-October, you can experience Oktoberfest by testing your skills in the world's oldest, noblest drinking game—known as Stein Hoisting—at the Biergarten House in Washington, D.C. All you have to do to win is hold a full liter of beer out at arm's length the longest, and prizes will be awarded to the top finishers.
Throughout the Biergarten Haus Oktoberfest event—which takes place every Thursday night starting at 8 p.m. from September 24 to October 15, 2020—this Bavarian pub offers its regular 12 drafts and an additional 11 Oktoberfest drafts, plus authentic German food and live music performances.
Wunder Garten is a beer hall in the NoMa neighborhood of D.C. that usually celebrates Oktoberfest with three days of traditions, including Bavarian food and drink, music, dance, and games. Draft beers are served in festive Oktoberfest Märzen-style and hail from Bavaria's oldest breweries like Spaten, Weihenstephaner, and Hofbräuhaus (plus some local brewers, too). In 2020, the event will take place over five weekends from September 18 to October 18. Tickets are not required for the free event, but Wunder Garten advises guests to register online in advance.
Frederick's Oktoberfest, presented by the Rotary Club of Frederick County and sponsored by Flying Dog Brewery, usually takes place at the Frederick Fairgrounds over two nights. The first night is a 21-and-over event featuring an opening ceremony, keg-tapping, Oktoberfest games, and live music. The following day, the whole family can enjoy German games and activities like a German spelling bee, a German genealogy workshop, a root beer luge, a yodeling contest, strength contests, and musical performances.
The 2020 iteration of this festival features a to-go menu, which means you can get your Oktoberfest goodies via carry-out and delivery on Saturday, October 3, 2020, at the Frederick Fairgrounds.
Port City Brewing Company's Oktoberfest is a series of celebrations that take place sporadically at this beer company's headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, from early August through early October each year.
During these sporadic events, guests can enjoy live music, food trucks, games, plenty of lager, and lots more throughout the late summer and early fall seasons. Additionally, Port City Brewing company typically launches its Oktoberfest brew during the first event, but you'll have plenty of chances throughout August, September, and October to take home a growler of it—even if you just stop by the front desk during regular business hours. The brewery has canceled many of their events in 2020, but it will hold an Oktoberfest beer dinner on September 22 in their place.
Snallygaster D.C. is one of the city's largest beer festivals, featuring more than 300 different ales and lagers as well as multiple food vendors, live music, DJ performances, and recreational and family-friendly activities. Events take place on Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest between Third and Sixth streets in the heart of downtown Washington, D.C. The price of admission benefits the Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture, but drink and food tickets are sold separately. This event will not be held in 2020.
Lovettsville in Loudoun County, Virginia, was originally known as the German Settlement before it was established in 1836 by the Virginia General Assembly. However, it became a major destination for German settlers who left Pennsylvania during the mid-1800s, and the city's German heritage is still celebrated today.
To honor this heritage, the community of Lovettsville celebrates Oktoberfest with authentic German foods, crafts, and entertainment over the last Friday and Saturday in September. The event usually features stein-hauling and hoisting competitions, keg tapping ceremonies, acoustic performances, and even two wiener dog races. This event has been canceled in 2020.
A United States Army installation located in Fairfax County, Virginia, might not be where you'd expect to find a quality beer festival, but this unique destination near Mt. Vernon celebrates the German heritage of the region each fall with a four-day celebration known as Fort Belvoir Oktoberfest.
Featuring carnival rides, games, music, and dancing, Fort Belvoir Oktoberfest gives visitors a chance to experience German culture and sample authentic beers and cuisine in a family-friendly environment. Attractions and vendors for the open-air market will be located on Fremont Field of Fort Belvoir in Fairfax County, Virginia. This event will not take place in 2020.
A traditional celebration of Bavarian beer-drinking can be found in Baltimore, Maryland, at M&T Bank Stadium Lots, home to the biggest Oktoberfest event in the city, featuring more than 150 unique German brews.
The Das Best Oktoberfest also offers German wines and schnapps, authentic cuisine, and all sorts of festival goodies. Entertainment includes oompah bands, live musical performances, contests for kids and adults alike, and even dachshund racing. While admission is required for adults and teens, children under the age of 13 enter for free. This event has been postponed until 2021.
The City of Gaithersburg and the Kentlands Citizens Assembly sponsor an event to honor the German heritage of the city. Known as Oktoberfest at the Kentlands, this family-friendly celebration typically features Bavarian music, dance, food, crafts, pony rides, moonbounces, pumpkin decorating, and face painting events spread throughout the Kentlands Village Green, the grounds of Kentlands Mansion, Main Street, and Market Square. This event has been canceled in 2020.