Every year, beer lovers look forward to the month that celebrates friendship over a stein of brew. The original Oktoberfest has returned full strength and has also inspired a world of imitators that look nothing like the beer tents and wooded hills of Germany’s Bavaria.
Wherever you celebrate, it’s all about the “Gemutlichkeit.” Some call it fellowship, friendliness, or even good times. It’s the atmosphere surrounding you at Oktoberfest as you clink beer mugs with new and old friends.
Munich – The Granddaddy of them All
The original Oktoberfest is back in person, with often as many as 6 million Germans and visitors from around the world convening in the Bavarian city for over two weeks from mid-September until about the first Sunday in October.
Its roots involve the wedding celebrations of a Bavarian prince, and later, a harvest festival, but in practice today, Oktoberfest is dubbed the world’s biggest folk festival. It celebrates Bavarian culture, with attendees dusting off their traditional dirndls and lederhosen to attend giant Bierhallen – or beer tents - with friends to drink prodigious quantities of local beer and enjoy local Bavarian cuisine, including various pork sausages, sauerkraut, pretzels, all served to the beat of brass bands during the daytime – that change to modern party music at night.
Only beer conforming to strict local brewing laws and brewed within the city of Munich can be served at the Munich Oktoberfest. In practice, that means only beer from half a dozen local breweries can be served up to patrons of the beer tents. It’s estimated 2 million gallons of beer are served over the couple of weeks, beginning with the ceremonial tapping of the first wooden keg to kick off the party.
Don't let the size of the party intimidate you! Guided tours and special river cruise excursions can take you into the heart of Munich's Oktoberfest; with a local guide who knows the ins and outs and how to get around the immense Oktoberfest celebrations.
Kitchener, Ontario, Canada – The World’s 2nd Largest Oktoberfest
A couple of hours west of Toronto, a community established by German immigrant farmers holds the distinction of annually hosting the 2nd largest Oktoberfest in the world, with nearly a million local, Canadian and American visitors who cross the border to take part.
Kitchener’s Oktoberfest carries on the German Oktoberfest traditions in North America – but sometimes with a local twist. Locals, many of whom still speak German, celebrate their roots – or, like they say that everyone is a little bit Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, becomes an honorary German descendant for Oktoberfest.
The community still has stores that year-round sell Bavarian traditional dress, and signs urge participants to “Get your Tracht on!” in a way that hints at options for modern twists. Women are no longer confined to long dirndls, for example, and can outfit themselves in things like pink, ‘Daisy Duke’ style lederhosen.
In German traditional costume or not, attendees head out for the community’s biggest festival that overlaps Canadian Thanksgiving the second Monday of October, with a parade that includes horse-drawn beer wagons.
Tapping the Keg at Kitchener's Oktoberfest. Courtesy Lynn Elmhirst/ BestTrip TV
German Oktoberfest terms and imitations of Munich’s Oktoberfest abound in ‘Festhallen’ (festival halls) that open with the with the traditional tapping of a wooden beer keg, tables laden with roast pork, potatoes, wurst, pretzels and sauerkraut, heavy steins overflowing with local brews, and the celebration of “Gemutlichkeit,” the warmth of friendship.
Oktoberfest on the Beach
You can even raise a pint in paradise. One resort group is continuing an annual tradition of Oktoberfest where you can have a beer in your hand and your feet in the sand.
Lederhosen, meet flipflops. Courtesy of LandShark/ Karisma Hotels & Resorts
Karisma Hotels & Resorts’ Margaritaville resorts in Cap Cana, Dominican Republic, Cancun, Mexico, and Riviera Maya, celebrate one of the beer-drinking world’s favorite festivals - with a tropical twist.
From mid-September to the end of October, the resorts will be busting out a Bavarian vibe with menusfeaturing pretzels, bratwursts, schnitzels, sauerkraut, and more, live music (but not so much the oompah-oompah kind, and LandShark beer. Guests of the resorts in Mexico can even take brewery tours with the LandShark Brewmaster and taste limited-time beer cask tappings.
Courtesy Karisma Hotels & Resorts
Veering from Bavarian traditions and towards fun in the sun activities, the resorts also have stein-holding contests, beer drinking and making contests, beer pong tournaments, beer tours, beer races, sausage eating contests, pretzel tossing, and yodeling competitions. After the festivities, guests can relax and rejuvenate with “Beer & Wellness” packages at the spa featuring a Wellness Beer Body Exfoliant & CBD Oil Massage as well as a Wellness Beer Scalp Foot Ritual with Reflexology.
Start your Oktoberfest Trip!
Top images courtesy of Karisma Hotels & Resorts
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