Oktoberfest started 201 years ago when a party celebrating the marriage of a Bavarian crown prince expanded into a two-week beer drinking, umm, festival. Attend Oktoberfest in Munich today and you'll drink at picnic-style tables under brewery-sponsored tents that can hold up to 7,000 people. Traditionally you'd be waited on by girls in low-cut dirndls carrying five steins in each hand. Also, don't let the name mislead you—Oktoberfest traditionally takes place in September to capitalize on warmer nights (see low cut dirndl). But there's no need to cross an ocean to join in Oktoberfest festivities. Instead, just head for the closest mountain town. We aren't sure why Oktobefests go off in the high country, but we think it has to do with the beer and sausage part.
My modern Oktoberfest experience involved sampling beer and food under the sun on Main Street in Breckenridge, Colorado. Polka music played in the Riverwalk Center and festival goers dressed in German costumes. As the day progressed the rowdiness rose, culminating in singing and general debauchery. Looking for an Oktoberfest of your own? Keep reading.
Snowbird's Oktoberfest started August 20 and continues each weekend through October 9. A crowd of 50,000 annual visitors follows the oompah music and aroma of sausages and beer to Snowbird's event tent. Imbibed too much? Snowbird offers free rides down the canyon.
Killington's 16th annual Brewfest is this Saturday in Vermont. While not a traditional Oktoberfest, the spirit survives, thanks to 70 different craft beers on tap including Magic Hat, Long Trail, and Saranac. Killington adds live music and food, and Mother Nature supplies the brilliant fall colors.
North Carolina's Sugar Mountain kicks off its 21st Oktoberfest next weekend. Try the Spaten Oktoberfest, an amber-colored beer with an understated sweetness first brewed in Munich nearly 140 years ago. German folk music, dancing, and cuisine (bratwursts with sauerkraut, apple strudel, and giant doughy pretzels) fuel the family fun.
The most authentic Oktoberfest this side of the Atlantic takes place in Frisco, Colorado, according to German-born transplant Helga Stone. Mark your calendar for Labor Day 2012 for stein-holding contests, leg wrestling, folk dancing, and Oktoberfest lager from Munich's Paulaner brewery.
Breckenridge combines Oktoberfest with mountain culture, holding a 5K run and closing Main Street for a street party. The Paulaner bier (that's German for "beer") pours again in mid-September 2012. —Sydney Fox