The Most Authentic Oktoberfest Celebrations, Besides the Big One in Germany
Can't make it to Munich? Not to worry—the biggest beer bash of the year is about to kick off, well, everywhere.
Is it that time of year again, already? Just a couple of weeks from now, at the stroke of noon on September 22, the mayor of Munich will tap the ceremonial first keg, marking the start of yet another Oktoberfest, which will be attended by six million people, give or take, all on board for a lot of beer drinking. Will you be among them? Never fear if not, because some terrific Oktoberfest celebrations will be kicking off shortly, around the world—many of them right here in the United States. Ready to hoist a stein, or perhaps three, maybe more? Here are some of the best Oktoberfests on the planet.
Maybe you didn't know that the second largest Oktoberfest celebration on the planet takes place more than 6,000 miles away from Munich, but that's okay, because you do now—each year, more than 700,000 revelers from all over South America (and beyond) congregate at the heart of a city known for its deep-rooted German heritage for an epic throwdown. The festival was founded in the 1980's, as a way to boost regional morale, in the wake of a devastating flood—the fun is still going strong today.
Brazil might like to have a word, as their big party draws roughly the same number of people as the one calling itself the second largest on the planet, but who has time to scrap over attendance numbers—there's too much beer on tap. Not all that far from Toronto, Kitchener and Waterloo are essentially twin downtowns serving an agricultural region well-known for its Germanic roots, so there's a built-in audience showing up for this nicely authentic event, held around Canada's Thanksgiving holiday, and featuring one very well-attended parade, which is broadcast on national television.
Fewer than 300,000 people live in Cincinnati, so when you think about the fact that roughly half a million people show up to the city's Oktoberfest each year, you now have a pretty good idea what kind of crowd to expect. As befits one of the most German cities outside of Germany, Oktoberfest is a big deal, and Cincinnati likes to do it correctly, though they've also clearly made it their own, and are not afraid to have a little fun. Besides, for example, a world's largest chicken dance event, there's the annual Running of the Wieners, to kick off the festivities—that's 100 dachshunds dressed up to look like hot dogs, racing for the crown.
Denver likes (and knows) beer. Denver likes to party. Therefore, it follows that Denver likes—nay, loves—Oktoberfest. Coming up on its fiftieth birthday, the annual celebration draws hundreds of thousands of people for two full weekends of merrymaking. Need more incentive? The first weekend overlaps with that other highlight of the local social calendar, the Great American Beer Festival, featuring 800 breweries and nearly 4,000 beers. Cheers.
Oktoberfest at the beach? Yes, please. Over two weekends in October, a Bavarian village pops up in this city on Australia's Gold Coast, known best for sun, sand and surf, and while getting the locals to show up for a bash isn't exactly a heavy lift, the organizers have gone to considerable lengths to make the event an authentic celebration of the original, and of German culture in general, starting with the beer—the three flagship offerings here are made according to old world purity laws, custom-brewed for the festival.
Don’t confuse Michigan's Little Bavaria—their words—with some upstart roadside tourist attraction; this small town not far from Flint is wholly committed to the preservation and promotion of German culture, and their annual Oktoberfest is considered to be authentic enough that at one point, it was endorsed by the mayor of Munich. In what we'd like to imagine is the thoroughly competitive, nearly cutthroat world of Oktoberfest organizing, this is something like winning an Oscar.
While it may not be the largest event of its kind in Asia, you couldn't ask for a better setting for a bit of German-style revelry than Hong Kong's Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront, with big views across Victoria Harbour to Hong Kong Island's jaw-dropping skyline. Six stories up from street level in an outdoor venue at the Marco Polo Hongkong Hotel, you'll find all the German beer (and all the German music) you can possibly handle in a night out. The event is popular enough that it runs for nearly a month.
Home to one of the best-loved Mardi Gras celebrations outside of New Orleans, you figure St. Louis knows how to party, and you would be correct—the city-that-beer- basically-built's very own Oktoberfest takes over the grounds of one of the country's oldest public markets, in the historic Soulard district, for one very memorable bash, accompanied by plenty of live oom-pah music.
Heard the one about all those Germans that ended up in Argentina, a certain number of decades ago? Well, they did, and if you're looking for some face time with a whole bunch of them, or at the very least their descendants, the small mountain town of Villa General Belgrano, not terribly far from the city of Córdoba, is a good place to start. Timing-wise, you couldn't ask for much better than the occasion of the National Beer Festival, dba Oktoberfest Argentina, which draws thousands to the town each year for more than a week's worth of beer drinking, dancing, eating of traditional foods and the all-important crowning of the Beer Queen.
Surprising only until you remember that other cities known for being super German are not all that far away (for instance Louisville, and of course Cincinnati), Oktoberfest is the oldest annual festival celebrated in this New South creative hub, known best these days for what's happening right now, versus what happened here generations ago. The city's Germantown neighborhood is currently being reimagined by developers, to say the least, but there's still room enough to celebrate the area's heritage—for four days in October, you'll find upwards of a quarter million people drinking beer (and doing other stuff in between!) here.
Sausage from some of the region's best pitmasters, local craft beer, and very good live music? It's almost enough to make us forgive Austin for making their annual Austoberfest a one-day event. Then again, if it's more Oktoberfest you're wanting, you're only at the heart of Central Texas, where German heritage is celebrated loudly and proudly at this time of year, everywhere from Fredericksburg to New Braunfels.