One of the best ways to celebrate autumn is with beer, brats, and polka music at an Oktoberfest party. So strap on the lederhosen, roll out the barrel, and check out these top five Oktoberfest destinations east of the Mississippi!
Cincinnati boasts the second largest Oktoberfest in the world (behind only Munich) with more than 500,000 attendees consuming more than 1,300 barrels of beer each year.
Oktoberfest Zinzinnati features seven stages for musical performances, and more than 30 food vendors. The celebration kicks off with the “Running of the Wieners,” during which 100 dachshunds race to be crowned the winning wiener. In the Gemuetlichekit Games, ladies compete in a Beer Stein Race where winners are determined by not only their speed, but by how much beer remains in their steins when they cross the finish line. Men compete in the Beer Barrel Roll by rolling an empty beer barrel around a course on Fountain Square. Everyone has the opportunity to participate in the World’s Largest Chicken Dance; if you have the stomach for it, you also may want to participate in the World Brat-Eating Championship.
Located about 90 miles north of Atlanta, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains along the banks of the Chattahoochee River, the small town of Helen, Georgia, hosts one of the most popular Oktoberfest celebrations in the country. The town is modeled after a Bavarian Alpine village, and the combination of people clad in lederhosen and dirndl dresses with loud oompah music leaves you feeling that you are actually in Germany.
Though the spirit of Oktoberfest can be experienced throughout the town, the Festhalle is the is the main hub for dancing, food and beer. Where many municipalities have Oktoberfest celebrations on a specific day or over a single weekend, Helen has events scheduled from mid-September through early November. You’ll want to arrive early, especially on weekends, as traffic jams and parking are problematic.
Viewfinder Tip: Accommodations in small towns with big Oktoberfest celebrations fill up fast so book early.
It’s no surprise that a city synonymous with beer would host a great Oktoberfest, and Milwaukee delivers in a big way. German food, live music, and lots of beer highlight the festivities that are held each year in Cathedral Square Park in downtown Milwaukee. Schedule highlights include a stein-hoisting competition, a wiener dog race, a Miss Oktoberfest contest, a brat-eating competition, and keg bowling.
Of particular interest is how organizers incorporate the Green Bay Packers football team into Oktoberfest by adding “Packer Tailgate and Game” to the schedule of events. That means if you attend the festivities on Sunday afternoon, you’re sure to see people wearing a unique combination of lederhosen and cheese hats as they drink beer, eat brats, and watch the game on a large projection screen in the park. Who knows, Milwaukee may one day be synonymous with fashion.
Frankenmuth is known as Michigan’s Little Bavaria, and it hosts the only Oktoberfest outside of Munich to be officially sanctioned by the Parliament and City of Munich. Frankenmuth’s festivities take place in Heritage Park, and the adjacent Harvey Kern Community Pavilion is converted into a German beer hall that holds about 5,000 people. While wiener dog races are certainly a crowd-pleaser, in Frankenmuth the celebration is more about singing, drinking, eating authentic German food, and dancing to live music from noon until midnight.
Baltimore proclaims its celebration as Das Best Oktoberfest, and, fittingly, the celebration marks the opening of Baltimore beer week. The festivities take place in the parking lot of M&T Bank Stadium (home of the Baltimore Ravens).
Attendees can sample more than 150 international and domestic beers. Of course there also are plenty of beer-related competitions in which attendees can participate or observe. The Masskrugstemmen Contest is an endurance competition to see which contestant can hold a one liter stein of beer at shoulder level the longest. The Miss Oktoberfest contest judges participants not only on their costumes and good looks, but also on their knowledge of beer, Oktoberfest, and German history. There is a home-brewing competition, and contest to select Baltimore’s best beer belly. Live music from oompah and polka bands creates the perfect atmosphere for consuming beer, eating German food, and dancing like a chicken.
What’s your favorite way to celebrate autumn?