The origins of Oktoberfest were in Germany as a celebration of King Ludwig I’s marriage to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. Since 1810, Oktoberfest has been an important part of Bavarian culture that takes place in late September or early October. Moreover, Oktoberfest in the United States is a celebration of Bavarian culture, heritage, music, food, and, of course, beer! Our list of the top five best U.S. cities for Oktoberfest could lead readers to discover a new favorite festival to hoist a beer at and sing along with an oom-pah band.
The art of beer brewing has been traced as far back as 3500 to 3100 BCE by archaeologists and researchers. Records of ancient history indicate that beer was believed to have been safer to drink than water because harmful microorganisms were boiled out and contained added calories from the brewing process. As such, it’s no wonder that beer would feature heavily in the world’s largest autumn Volksfest celebration.
German beer is the traditional drink of Oktoberfest and is typically served in one-liter-sized mugs or beer steins. German-style lager, the world’s most popular beer, originated more than 400 years ago in Bavaria due to a brewing accident, according to a recent study. Researchers say the yeast used for brewing cold beer, known as Saccharomyces pastorianus, emerged at the court of Maximilian the Great in Munich. This was the result of an accidental encounter and subsequent mating of two distinct yeast strains. The hybrid yeast is notable for its slower fermentation rate at cooler temperatures, such as those found in caves and cellars.
And, if you are worried about drinking away your health at these beer-centered parties, relax! A new study finds that hops, which give many varieties of beer their bitter flavor, are also capable of preventing harmful proteins from clumping together in the brain. Results show that the Tettnang hop, used in many types of lagers and lighter ales, had the most success in terms of preventing Alzheimer’s-related brain issues. When the team separated this extract into fractions, the portion containing a high level of polyphenols had the greatest antibiotic and amyloid beta-blocking ability. The team also found that the hop extract boosted the body’s ability to clear out misfolded and toxic proteins.
Thirsty yet? Then grab your lederhosen or dirndl and a group of friends! With so many great fall celebrations across the nation, we needed our sources to find the best U.S. cities for Oktoberfest. Let us know where you celebrate Oktoberfest in the comments below!
The List: Best Oktoberfest Festivals in America, Per Travel Experts
1. Frankenmuth, Michigan
Topping our list in the number one spot is Frankenmuth, Michigan. This Oktoberfest is a great example of a big party in a small town. Visit USA Parks explains, “To begin, we head to one of the youngest festivals on the list, held in Frankenmuth, Michigan. Don’t let age fool you, though. Frankenmuth is home to one of the best Oktoberfests in the U.S. for a reason. This epic mid-September weekend of festivities was sanctioned in its inaugural year by the then mayor of Munich, Lord Mayor Christian Ude. Accompanying this honor, Frankenmuth was the first place in the U.S. to import beer from the iconic Munich-based Hofbrauhaus, which has sponsored Frankenmuth Oktoberfest since its inception. Dubbed ‘Michigan’s Little Bavaria,’ the town is idyllic year-round, with a quaint main street and plenty to do and see no matter when you visit.”
— Frankenmuth (@Frankenmuth) September 8, 2015
The Points Guy points out, “The small town of Frankenmuth hosts a small but mighty Oktoberfest celebration in mid-September. It’s the only destination outside of Munich to be officially sanctioned by the Bundestag (Germany’s parliament) and Munich’s former Lord Mayor, Christian Ude. Thanks to its deep German roots and longstanding dedication to representing Bavaria, Frankenmuth draws Germans and droves of other travelers in search of an authentic German experience.”
Men’s Journal also praises, “There are oodles of Oktoberfests in the United States, but there’s only one so authentic that a Munich mayor gave it his official blessing: the Frankenmuth Oktoberfest in Michigan. Now Hofbrauhaus, a famous beer hall in Munich, is the official sponsor of the weekend. It may not be the original Oktoberfest, but with Bavarian food, freshly tapped German suds, and locals in lederhosen and dirndls, it’s about as close to the real thing as you’ll find without booking a flight to Germany.”
2. Helen, Georgia
Helen, Georgia, hosts an epic annual Oktoberfest. Late-September Georgia also offers mild weather that is perfect for outdoor celebrations. Next Where Surprise Getaways claims, “Oktoberfest in Helen, Georgia, has been one of the cities with the longest tradition of Oktoberfest celebrations in the United States. Nestled in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, this charming town will remind you of a traditional Alpine village. You can visit specialty shops selling souvenirs and German products and purchase some unique travel gifts.”
— Alpine Helen Georgia (@AlpineHelen) October 3, 2022
“If there is one Oktoberfest in the U.S. you need to visit, make it Helen Oktoberfest, the longest-running fest in the country. Hosted by the Helen Festhalle, you can visit most weekends in September and October for an amazing time. The most notable feature of Helen Oktoberfest is that the town is actually designed as a German-style alpine village. You get to explore throughout the whole town, not just fairgrounds like other Oktoberfests,” according to Two Scots Abroad.
Travelmag adds, “Another well-established event, Helen Oktoberfest is said to be the longest running Oktoberfest anywhere in the U.S. Held in the Georgia city of Helen’s riverside Festhalle venue, it’s spread over multiple weeks of dancing, food, and beer, with revelers typically seen dressed in traditional attire, including lederhosen and dirndls, while dancing to the polka. There’s a rotating group of musical acts playing authentic German tunes and modern favorites. The event is open to all ages, though weekends are popular with tour and college groups, while weekdays tend to be a bit more family-friendly.”
3. Leavenworth, WA
Leavenworth sits tucked beneath the shadow of the Cascade mountains and offers another scenic Oktoberfest destination. Leavenworth is a great small town lauded for its attention to detail. Vacasa adds, “The town is known for its authentic German flair, ranging from architecture and nutcracker museums to its seasonal festivals—most famously, its Christmas village lighting and one of the largest Oktoberfests in the country. When coming for the latter, you’ll enjoy the ceremonial tapping of the keg, beer gardens, live music, oom-pah bands, German foods, pastries, traditional Bavarian clothes, and souvenirs for sale.”
Trips to Discover opines, “[Enjoy] the opportunity to immerse yourself within the famous Bavarian architecture that attendees have come to associate with the original festival. It will take place throughout the town, complete with the longstanding traditions of music, dancing, and the ceremonial tapping of the kegs. There will be three beer gardens featuring local beers and a 10,000-square-foot Kinderplatz for kids with a 62-foot Ferris wheel, bouncy obstacle course, root beer garden, face painting, games, and more.”
“If you want to experience a truly authentic Oktoberfest celebration, Leavenworth is the spot. This picturesque city is located in the Cascade Mountains and is home to one of the largest Oktoberfest celebrations in the country,” writes Lifehacker.
4. Cincinnati, OH
Cincinnati hosts the annual Oktoberfest Zinzinnati, a huge city-wide celebration. Travelers looking for a huge listing of festivities need look no further. Tasting Table expands on this: “This massive festival sponsored by Samuel Adams takes place in mid-September… in downtown Cincinnati. The city of Cincinnati is so steeped in German heritage that the name ‘Zinzinnati’ is not only used for the annual Oktoberfest, but locals also use it to refer to the city because of their German roots and influence.”
Countdown to the World’s Largest Chicken Dance is on. Get to a stage (any stage).
— Oktoberfest Zinzinnati (@OktoberfestZinz) September 21, 2019
Visit Parks USA adds details: “Of course this list would not be complete without the biggest Oktoberfest in America! In southwest Ohio, the city of Cincinnati boasts the title of ‘America’s largest Oktoberfest’ during their annual Oktoberfest Zinzinnati celebration. According to the festival website, over 3,600 pounds of sauerkraut and 80,000 bratwursts are consumed during Oktoberfest Zinzinnati each year.”
“More than 500,000 people attend this celebration in Cincinnati each year. To be honest, this Oktoberfest is the one that is most similar to the Munich festival. The event lasts for three days in mid-September, and it is packed with authentic German food, drinks, and music,” adds Next Where.
5. La Crosse, Wisconsin
The folks in Wisconsin know how to celebrate their Bavarian roots! Oktoberfest U.S.A. is recognized as the Midwest’s biggest annual sausage fest. Men’s Journal acclaims, “An estimated 42 percent of all Wisconsin residents claim at least partial German heritage, so it makes sense that the state goes all out in its Oktoberfest celebrations. Oktoberfest U.S.A. in La Crosse, Wisconsin, is the longest-running Oktoberfest (2023 marks its 63rd year) in the Midwest, as well as one of the largest. Each year, traditional events include stein races, barrel rolls, grain tosses, polka dancing, stein holding competitions, a Festmaster’s ball, and the tapping of the Sam Adams Golden Keg.”
On this day in 1961, first Wisconsin @OktoberfestLaX was held. In early 1960, civic leaders agreed that city needed community-wide activity. Community leaders decided upon an Oktoberfest celebration. @LaCrosseTribune #wisconsinhistory pic.twitter.com/LkyJELt2hd
— WIHistoricalSociety (@WisHistory) October 14, 2019
“Das Beste Oktoberfest in La Crosse is undoubtedly the best in the state and maybe even the best in the Midwest. The first Oktoberfest in La Crosse was held back in 1961. Originally organized out of necessity for a community-wide event in the city, considering the German-American population, an Oktoberfest was the obvious choice,” posits Tasting Table.
“In Wisconsin, the town of La Crosse is where visitors will find one of the best Oktoberfests in the U.S. The festival began when city leaders were exploring city-wide event options. A local German-owned brewery heard the news and suggested an Oktoberfest celebration. In just a few short years, the endeavor became nationally recognized as ‘Oktoberfest U.S.A.’ making the festival in La Crosse one of the most popular and biggest Oktoberfests in America,” according to Visit Parks USA.
You might also be interested in:
- Visit USA Parks
- The Points Guy
- Men’s Journal
- Next Where Surprise Getaways
- Two Scots Abroad Itineraries and Lists
- Trips to Discover
- Tasting Table
Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.