Have you ever been to a raucous wedding reception that turned into an epic party? Exactly 202 years ago this October, the German Prince Ludwig the First married Princess Therese and afterwards hosted exactly such a celebration. It was so memorable that the attendees wanted to relive it every year. That desire spawned the annual alcohol-filled party known today as Oktoberfest.
Happily for lovers of celebrations and beer, Oktoberfest has very much spread beyond Germany in the last two centuries. Here’s Spot Cool Stuff’s roundup of a few great places to enjoy the occasion outside of Europe. Our selection of Oktoberfests span the globe and are attended by people across the spectrum of race, religion and political affiliation. We see it as proof that one of man’s most universal and fundamental desires is to have fun — while guzzling beer and wearing lederhosen.
What: The largest Oktoberfest outside of Germany. Though while attending Oktoberfest Blumenua you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in Germany (albeit on an unusually hot day). The population of the Brazilian city of Blumenau is 95% of direct German or Italian origin; in the city’s center are several white-stuccoed, red-tiled buildings very much of the sort you’d find in Munich.
The Highlight: In addition to the large, largely-drunken crowd that’s in a mood to party as only a crowd in Brazil can be, the highlight of this Oktoberfest is the day-long parade down Blumenau’s main street.
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What: Disappointingly, the crowd at Oktoberfest Chicago does not break out into coordinated song and dance a la the Chicago Oktoberfest depicted in Ferris Bueler’s Day Off. But they might drink more per person than any other Oktoberfest outside of Europe.
Because of said heavy drinking, Spot Cool Stuff suggests leaving the kids at home while attending Oktoberfest Chicago. If you are looking for a family-friendly Oktoberfest in the greater Chicago area, consider the Lynfred Winery Oktoberfest where beer-and-wine-drinkers-to-be can stomp on grapes and eat candy apples).
Highlight: Local German restaurants and bakeries make Chicago’s rendition of Oktoberfest an unexpected culinary delight; even anti-beer foodies can enjoy themselves.
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National Beer Festival
Villa General Belgrano, Argentina
What: Argentina’s National Beer Festival is an Oktoberfest by another name. For two weekends in October, the population of Villa General Belgrano, a small German-settled village in the middle of the country, increases several fold. This Argentine celebration is the world’s third largest Oktoberfest after those in Munich and Blumenau (above). Book your local accommodations around a year in advance.
Highlight: The election of the National Queen of Beer, which takes place in a beer hall specifically designed for the occasion. In a horrible show of discrimination, there is no National King of Beer.
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What: Several beers are named after cities but few of those are named after a city in Africa. The best among them is Windhoek Lager. Not coincidentally, its namesake, the capital of Namibia, was once the heart of Germany’s colonial holdings in southern Africa. (To this day a traveler could comfortably get around Windhoek speaking and understanding nothing but German). Also, not coincidentally, Windhoek has taken to celebrating Oktoberfest. Though the Windhoek Oktoberfest is more of an informal gathering put on by several clubs than an organized event, it is huge fun and travelers are welcome to join in.
Highlight: Honestly, there are no highlights to this Oktoberfest other than the surreal feeling of celebrating German beer in a hot, dry and mostly unremarkable African city.
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Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
What: Where’s the largest Oktoberfest in the United States? Surprisingly, in Cincinnati, Ohio. Every year more than half a million people — most of whom possess no other worldly reason to travel to southern Ohio — descend upon the city for Oktoberfest Zinzinnati.
Highlight: The World’s Largest Chicken Dance is the sort of event that can only happen with beer lubrication. Though it is hard not to declare that our Zinzinnati highlight, we are partial to the annual Running of the Wieners in which Dachshunds dressed in hot dog bun costumes race 50 feet across Fountain Square in downtown Cincinnati.
What: Japan hosts several Oktoberfests but the largest is the 10-day festival in Tokyo’s Hibiya Park. On weekdays, the Hibiya Oktoberfest is more of a German food festival that happens to have a large selection of beers. On weekends, a frenetic horde of Tokyo-ites, many who are apparently unskilled at handling their liquor, turn the event into a crowded, semi-raucous party.
Highlight: The musical stylings of Grasleitn Musi, a German folk-rock band who trumpet (and tuba and accordion) around stage wearing traditional German garb and leading the crowd in interactive songs.
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What: Oktoberfest Denver, held by the city’s baseball park, is not an especially large celebration. But it is worth mentioning here for being one of the world’s more family-friendly. The Kids Karnival area of the fest includes kinder-centric games such as a pretzel toss, a German joust and the “Barrels of Fun” ride.
Highlights: Kids will love the
drunk dunk tanks. Groups of beer-loving adults should sign up for the Oktoberfest Olympiks at their own peril.
Taybeh, Palestine (West Bank)
What: Okay, maybe it’s too simplistic to believe that Middle East peace could come about if only the people of that conflict-rich region bonded more over beer. But how heart-warmingly wonderful that for two days every October a group of hearty beer lovers in Palestine give that a try! Their Oktoberfest is the largest annual party in the West Bank. It’s held in the town of Taybeh, located a few kilometers north of Jerusalem and is home to the Taybeh Brewery, the only beer producer in Palestine. Taybeh itself is an ancient city mentioned (under various names) in the Torah, the Bible and the Koran. Today, the town doesn’t display much of its storied past. It does have a friendly, can-do atmosphere that showcases the sort of peace and vitality a fully independent Palestine could have.
Green Olive Tours runs transportation to the festival from both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
The Highlight: The fact that a Palestinian Oktoberfest — attended by Jews, Muslims and Christians — exists at all.
Below is a trailer for the short documentary about beer and the Taybeh Oktoberfest. Watch longer segments of Palestine, Beer and Oktoberfest Under Occupation on YouTube.
World of Warcraft
If you are allergic to beer, anti-social, stuck in your parent’s basement or prefer a virtual experience to an old-fashioned one, visit the world’s largest online Oktoberfest, Brewfest, which happens every October in the World of Warcraft multi-player game.
Those looking for a more, you know, real-life Oktoberfest near you check out OktoberfestSearch.com—the website has an extensive database of Oktoberfest dates and locations.