Oktoberfest first began in 1810 as a celebration of the Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen’s wedding. The original celebration lasted five days and the people of Munich had events such as horseback riding and days of drinking.
The event officially became a celebration of the anniversary of the prince before becoming an annual festival that grew more extensive and more prominent over the years. The event has also caught on in the rest of the world where it’s celebrated globally.
Though the name of the yearly festival is Oktoberfest, the event takes place every year in the middle of September and ends the first week of October. Oktoberfest typically lasts 16 days ending the first Sunday of October but if it goes past October 3rd, it goes to 17 or even 18 days.
However, if a trip to Europe doesn’t work for you this fall, don’t fret: There are many great places closer to home where you can get your fill of German food and beer.
To help you decide where to celebrate Germany’s famous fall event without traveling abroad, I’ve searched from sea to shining sea to bring you America’s best Oktoberfest events. Regardless of what your favorite part of Oktoberfest is, you’re bound to have a memorable experience at one of the celebrations this side of the Atlantic.
Oktoberfest — Helen, Georgia
Festival dates: September 7-10, 14-17, and 21-24; daily from September 28-October 20, 2023
Nestled in Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, the town of Helen was overlooked by tourists for years. They’d stop to top off their tanks on the way to the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, Brasstown Bald, or Georgia’s beloved Vogel State Park.
Then in 1969, a business owner had enough. He noted the region’s similarity to Bavaria where he’d been stationed while in the Army so he proposed: Transform sleepy Helen into an alpine village that appeared to be plucked right out of a German forest.
Slowly, the town changed its face adding half-timber facades, cobblestone alleys, and delicate gingerbread latticework and hand-carved details to eaves and rooflines. Soon after it became Alpine Helen; this year-round bit of Bavaria not too far north of Atlanta held its first Oktoberfest celebration.
Nowadays, more than 500,000 visitors attend the two-month event. The Oktoberfest Parade kicks things off on September 9 culminating in a crowd at the Helen Festhalle where the Official Tapping of the Keg marks the true opening of Oktoberfest.
German-style bands from across the U.S. and Germany, more than 30 beers from local breweries and German brewmeisters, authentic Bavarian cuisine, traditional Alpenhorn instruments and plenty of folks in festive costumes make Helen’s Oktoberfest a memorable event.
Beyond the festival, visitors can peruse the town’s 100-plus boutiques and galleries or explore the nearby national forests and state parks.
Oktoberfest — Fredericksburg, Texas
Festival dates: October 6-8, 2023
Since 1981, the whole town—and then some—have turned out every October to find the town’s Marktplatz transformed into a miniature Munich. Live polka and oompah bands play on five different stages and at this year’s Oktoberfest celebration musicians from Germany will add old home country authenticity to the music lineup.
There’s German fare (think: brats, kraut, wurst, potato pancakes, and made-to-order pretzels), plus a seemingly endless supply of beer from Germany’s own Paulaner (a brewery that provides one of six beers poured at Munich’s Oktoberfest) and Spaten-Franziskaner-Bräu. Oktoberfest beers from breweries in Texas and beyond are also readily available.
Younger attendees will enjoy plenty of kids’ games in the KinderPark. There’s also a pair of juried art and artisan exhibitions featuring work from the best of the Hill Country’s creative types. Other must-attend events include a family-friendly lederhosen and dirndl contest, a yodeling competition, and the Samuel Adams Beer Stein Hoist.
The Pedernales Creative Art Alliance organizes this Oktoberfest celebration. Proceeds from tickets which cost $20 each and are valid for three days of admission fund youth arts and music scholarships, community arts and musical programs, and more—another great reason to attend the festival.
When you’re not at Oktoberfest, check out central Fredericksburg. The whole town is decked out in German regalia and offers several boutiques on Main Street selling authentic German goods imported from Europe.
Trapp Family Lodge Oktoberfest — Stowe, Vermont
Festival date: September 16, 2023
The hills come alive with the sound of Oktoberfest music when you celebrate at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe. Yes, it’s the same von Trapp family whose story was immortalized in The Sound of Music and a pair of German films: Die Trapp Familie and Die Trapp Familie in Amerika.
The family’s story begins in 1905 when the real Maria was born on a train to Vienna. It follows through to the early 1940s when the Trapp Family Singers toured the U.S. and then settled in Stowe where they found a farm with a view that reminded them of their beloved Austria. The family built a lodge and a life there extending their hospitality and grace to visitors from all over before eventually growing the property into a full-fledged resort.
This year marks the 14th annual Oktoberfest celebration at the property’s von Trapp Brewing Bierhall. During the one-day event, festivalgoers can listen to music from Germany’s Inseldudler band, drink beer from the von Trapp Brewery, and savor a spread of German and Austrian cuisine that’s bound to transport them to the Alps in a single bite.
It’s a family-friendly affair and tickets (which range from $32 to $62 per person, depending on your age) include a lager and a commemorative mug for guests 21 and up. Those 20 and younger will receive a root beer with a commemorative mug.
Tickets are good for one of three sessions, each lasting two hours and 45 minutes so you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy some bratwurst and sauerkraut, eggplant schnitzel with Jaeger sauce, potato pancakes and, of course, pretzels and beer.
Also, save time for exploring the rest of the property. Available activities include disc golf, hiking, mountain biking, and carriage rides. Remember to visit the nearby Ben & Jerry’s Waterbury Factory, too, to sample some of Vermont’s famous ice cream and learn how it’s made.
Oktoberfest — Savannah, Georgia
Festival dates: Saturdays and Sundays from September 23-October 28, 2023
Oktoberfest in this historic Southern city proves that entertainment and hospitality are two things Savannah takes seriously.
The city’s Plant Riverside District, a 1912 power plant that’s been re-envisioned and restored to an elegant modern standard is home to high-end shopping, concert and comedy venues, delectable dining, and a quarter-mile riverfront walk with gorgeous views.
It’s also home to the city’s Oktoberfest, a multi-weekend celebration packed with beer tasting, fine German food, and several family-friendly events.
There’s a bratwurst-eating contest, music, and dancing. Plus, the whole of the Plant Riverside District is at your disposal. Check venue schedules for concerts and comedy shows that might pique your interest.
Oktoberfest spills beyond this entertainment district and you’ll find celebratory beers on offer at Southbound Brewing Company, Moon River Brewing Company, and other breweries in town.
While you’re in Savannah, spend time walking the city’s historical squares. They’re great places to soak up the charm and mystery of the city while walking off all the mouthwatering Southern fare you’ll eat while visiting. Also check out the multitude of galleries filled with local works, including fine art, and traditional Gullah crafts.
Haunted tours, pub crawls, haunted pub crawls (naturally), and history tours keep many visitors busy. However, if you’re in town for Oktoberfest you’ll also be there in time for other events that showcase the charm of Savannah and the low country.
Nearby Tybee Island’s Pirate Fest takes place the first weekend in October. The second weekend is the Great Ogeechee Seafood Festival. The Isle of Hope Art and Music Fest and the Savannah Film Festival both occur on the third weekend of October.
Cheers to Okto-beer-fest!