Traveling to Munich in Bavaria, Germany, might not be in the cards for you this year, but you can still celebrate one of the most famous German holidays right here in the United States. After all, we have a long history of enjoying the best holidays from nations around the world, and Oktoberfest is one of the most popular.
A 16-day event beginning in September and ending on the first weekend of October, Oktoberfest originated as a result of royal wedding in Bavaria in 1810, and is now celebrated in various countries around the world. In fact, Munich's celebration is the largest fair in the world, with over 6 million visitors.
Below is a list of U.S. cities that celebrate this holiday by staying true to the original traditions. This list can help you find a city nearby that will be sure to offer traditional German food and drink, as well as a look and feel of the authentic Oktoberfest festival.
Cities to Visit
Several cities across the United States do a fine job of celebrating Oktoberfest, bringing together their take on German traditions. From delicious cuisine to hearty Bavarian beers, each of these cities provides their version of this holiday, offering you a great experience that showcases local flavors.
- Cincinnati (Zinzinnati), OH: The festivities here are at the top of almost every list of places to celebrate Oktoberfest on this side of the Atlantic. This is the nation's largest festival with several stages for music, food vendors, and a host of German games to play. Cincinnati is a smaller city with big-city flavors and celebrations and is a destination worth the travel.
- Leavenworth, WA: For our friends in the Northwest, this Oktoberfest festival even offers an annual marathon for runners, among the normal festivities. All the traditional Oktoberfest food and drink you would expect are available, and this town looks the part, too, with mountains in the distance and timber-frame buildings.
- La Crosse, WI: La Crosse has been celebrating Oktoberfest for over 50 years. And, since 1968, this festival has crowned an annual Miss La Crosse/Oktoberfest (a scholarship program) and a Mrs. Oktoberfest, selecting one person to be recognized for her success in her community and profession. This Oktoberfest has many traditions—old and new—and is well worth attending.
How to Celebrate in Your Hometown
If you are not able to attend Oktoberfest festivities in any of the cities listed above, you might consider hosting your own party in your hometown. If you spread the word, it is likely you will find many others who wish to celebrate the holiday. Many Americans have German heritage of some kind or another, so you will not have trouble finding helping hands. Here's how you can start:
- Check with local venues to find out if any Oktoberfest celebrations have already been planned. If not, think about booking a venue early on.
- Contact people in your community who would like to celebrate, and create a list for everything you would need help with: cooking, beer donations, polka bands, etc.
- Ask for volunteers! More than likely, many folks will want to pitch in.
- Because Oktoberfest lasts for nearly two weeks, you will want to plan a time and place that does not overlap with other festivities.
How to Host Your Own Oktoberfest
If you are looking for a low-key experience this fall, you might consider just celebrating Oktoberfest at home, inviting friends over for the festivities. Food blogger Joanne Camas says, "Of course, you don't need to jet to Germany to enjoy Oktoberfest. Many states boast their own brats 'n' beer festivals. You can even re-create the experience at home with tasty German fare."
Her article features a list of Oktoberfest recipes and dishes to try at home. Check your local grocery stores and farmers' markets for ingredients and supplies authentic to traditional German cuisine. More often than not, it is easier to find a real piece of Germany here in the States than you might guess.
Oktoberfest provides a great chance to experience new food, culture, drink, and tradition, more so than during other times of the year. And what better way to celebrate the changing leaves, the colder weather, and the harvest than by hoisting a pint and experiencing a true German tradition? Prost!