3. Oktoberfest (La Crosse, Wisconsin)
La Crosse is Mark Twain territory, being so near the crossing of the La Crosse, Mississippi, and Black Rivers. Like most of the cultural life in the town, Oktoberfest in La Crosse is a beloved and meticulously crafted event. It even has its own song and commemorative video.
The festivities are pretty much as they were from the start; a little homecoming (except that here we crown Miss Oktoberfest and the Festmaster) and a little country ho-down. An Oktoberfest Shuttle service helps ‘festers get from North-to-South, through the downtown, around the UWL campus, and over to French Island.
Parades, eating and inadvertently learning a little history along the way are the basic activities of Oktoberfest in La Crosse, but the real veterans know how to navigate around the crowds to things like the Lederhosen Luncheon, or Craft Beer Night at the North Side Festgrounds. To walk or run off the additional calories you’ve packed on during your stay, we recommend signing up to the YMCA Maple Leaf Run/Walk in advance.
Single-day tickets cost $5 for Thursday, $10 for Friday and Saturday, and $5 for Sunday. Children 12 and under are free. Tickets to OktoBRATfest are $10, which allows patrons two beverages and a sample of each bratwurst. North Side Festgrounds, which includes a carnival, is free except for the 21+ section on Craft Beer Night, which is $35 at the door.
2. New Ulm Oktoberfest (New Ulm, Minnesota)
Idyllic New Ulm’s version of the Bavarian tradition takes place during the first two weekends in October at three locations. The August Schell Brewing Company location is the second longest family-run brewery in the country. They specialize in brewing German-style lagers. The Best Western Plus New Ulm is a convenient location for visitors who want lodging close to the two indoor band stages that will feature German-style polka and radio hit music throughout Oktoberfest.
New Ulm’s downtown Oktoberfest location is geared toward the entire family, with all-ages fun that includes live bands, horse-drawn trolley rides, specialty shops and food vendors, the John Lind House tour, and a 45 foot Musical Glockenspiel which chimes throughout the downtown during the festival. Admission is $5 on Fridays and $8 on Saturdays.
1. Leavenworth Oktoberfest (Leavenworth, Washington)
Leavenworth touts it’s Oktoberfest as “the next best thing to being in Munich” and for good reason. First of all, it’s huge, with four venues for live entertainment and dancing. Expect all of the typical trappings, like live music, German food, arts and crafts, family games, and a lot of beer. Each Saturday at 1 pm is the Bavarian-inspired Keg Tapping Ceremony, led the Mayor, followed by music from Musikkapelle Leavenworth, and other musical groups from the US and Germany.
Free transportation is available from Leavenworth to all of the major hotels and visitors areas. If Leavenworth is full, try booking yourself into a hotel or Airbnb in Wenatchee where cheap transportation is also available. Tickets to Oktoberfest in Leavenworth are $10 for and $20 for Saturday; cash is accepted at the front gate.
If you want family Oktoberfest fun, set in some of America’s dearest towns and cities, you have your official list. And if we’ve inspired you to drink beer with friends in the great outdoors, but you don’t live near any of these places you may still find an Oktoberfest near you. Look for small towns—especially college towns—near you that put some effort into their Oktoberfest website. Those are just a few clues that they take their Oktoberfest seriously.