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Top 10 American Oktoberfests


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Oktoberfest is one of the biggest festivals in the entire world. For 16 days every year, the city of Munich plays host to some six million visitors from around the globe, all raring to dance the polka, listen to German folk music, feast on the local cuisine, and sample authentic German craft brews. This year, the 180th Munich Oktoberfest will run from September 21 to October 6.

Of course, you don't have to fly to Munich just to participate in the Oktoberfest celebrations. There are many communities in the United States that boast of German ancestry and heritage, and the Oktoberfest is one of those annual events that they take advantage of to honor this heritage. If you want to drink and be merry at an Oktoberfest, all you need to do is to visit these communities and join in the party. We have here our pick of the top ten Oktoberfest celebrations in the US.

Addison, Texas

When: September 19-22, 2013

The folks at Addison, Texas claim the Addison Oktoberfest to be one of the biggest Oktoberfests in the U.S. They do have the numbers to back that boast - some 70,000 people fill up the tents at Addison Circle Park every year to take part in the games, dance outdoors, and partake of the outdoor biergarten dining experience. This year, activities include a 5K/1M run to support children's cancer research, bier barrel rolling and bowling, Dachshund wiener parades, and the German Idol yodeling contest. There will also be carnival rides and arts and crafts booths, as well as outdoor taverns serving snacks and German-style hand-baked pastries. Tickets to the Addison Oktoberfest are up for $5 apiece for the afternoon events and $10 for the evening events. Kids under four years of age come in for free. Food and beverage coupons are at $1 each. If you want fine dining German style, Chef Richard Chamberlain, one of the country's leading chefs and owner of Dallas-based Chamberlain restaurants, will host Chamberlain's Brau Haus, a three-course tasting menu featuring authentic Bavarian classic dishes. Reservations are required, and tickets cost $49 each. Aside from the marvelous food, you'll get a souvenir stein and a $25 gift card that you can redeem at Chamberlain's Steak and Chop House and Chamberlain's Fish Market Grill. You can also win a free trip to the Munich Oktoberfest in 2014.

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Bavarian woman holding a beer stein
Bavarian woman holding a beer Stein

Boston, Massachusetts

When: October 4-5, 2013

Thinking of making Oktoberfest a New England weekend getaway with your partner, or maybe with a few select friends? Then check out the Harpoon Oktoberfest at Harpoon Beer's Boston brewery. The Harpoon Oktoberfest is a sampling of Munich Oktoberfest traditions with a New England twist. There you'll be treated to performances of the chicken dance and numbers by German oompah bands. You can take part in the keg bowling games. And there are plates of German festival food and a selection of fresh Harpoon beers to enjoy. The Harpoon Oktoberfest is a 21+ event, though, and you have to present an ID to get past the gate. There's a $20 cover charge, which includes a single drink ticket and a souvenir pint cup. You also can't buy your tickets in advance.

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Chicago, Illinois

When: September 27-29, 2013

St. Alphonsus Church and Southport are the staging areas for Chicago's brand of Oktoberfest, a truly family-friendly affair that highlights German music, festival games, and, of course, food and drink. Kids get to learn how to polka, play in the obstacle course, as well as try their hand in arts and crafts activities during the Sunday Kinderfest. Kids are not the only ones bound to have fun during the St. Alphonsus Oktoberfest. For the adults, there's Craft Brew Night, where they can taste local beers from 20 of the country's top breweries. Tickets for Craft Brew Night are $30 a pop, but if you sign up to become a brewmaster, you get a bunch of discounts and freebies for $125. Live music is provided by German bands like the Bratwurst Brothers and by contemporary acts. Admission is $5 on September 27 and 28, and free on the 29th.

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Cincinnati, Ohio

When: September 20-22, 2013

For three days in September, six blocks of Fifth Street in downtown Cincinnati, starting from Vine all the way to Sentinel, become party grounds for one of the largest Oktoberfest events in the US: the Oktoberfest-Zinzinnati. There you can let loose on the streets and watch (or maybe participate) in the chicken dancing, the gemuetlichkeit games, and the stein hoisting championships. Every hour is heralded by dancing and performances by special celebrity guests at the Glockenspiel, which is a working, larger-than-life sized clock with a bar and a stage built at its base. You'll also get to watch German musicians play the nine-foot alpenhorns specially commissioned by the city. An Oktoberfest-Zinzinnati somehow doesn't sound complete without the annual Running of the Weiners, where dachshunds garbed in hotdog costumes will race 75 feet to their owners. And if you're a Trekkie, don't miss this year's Chicken Dance - the original Sulu, George Takei, will be leading it. Admission to this Oktoberfest is free.

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Denver, Colorado

When: September 27-29 and October 4-6, 2013

Denver is one of the craft beer capitals of the world, so it's only appropriate for the city to have its own Denver Oktoberfest. Just head to Larimer Square on September 27 to 29 and October 4 to 6 and join in the party. Watch the fans bowl kegs, race their dachshunds, dance to performances of rock and German bands, and eat as many bratwursts and sauerkrauts as they can. Not to miss at the Denver Oktoberfest is the 5K DasHustlehoff race, where you get to run the closed streets of Denver. All participants to this event will get a T-shirt and free beer. And then, there's also the Keg Bowling National Championships. Admission is free and the food tickets cost $7 each. If you're going to stay for the long haul, you may want to consider buying VIP tickets, which will allow you to eat and drink all you can in the special VIP area. The VIP package also includes a T-shirt, a souvenir ceramic stein, and an authentic German hat.

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La Crosse, Wisconsin

When: September 27 - October 5, 2013

Established in 1961, the Oktoberfest at La Crosse, Wisconsin, also known as Oktoberfest USA, is one of the oldest festivals of its kind in the country. This year, this tradition-laden event will feature the annual Maple Leaf and Torchlight Parades, as well as Big Muddy Run and Craft Beer Night. Participants of all ages will have all the fun they want at the Festplatz at the Northside Festgrounds, while those 21 years old and above will have their own party at the Festzelt and Bier Halle at the Southside Festgrounds. The live entertainment this year will be headlined by country music superstar Merle Haggard and his band. You may also want to check out the Festmaster's Ball, where the designated royal family of the festival gets to fete their subjects and where the Festmaster of next year's Oktoberfest will be announced. Admission buttons are $10 each.

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Leavenworth, Washington

When: October 4-5, 11-12, 18-19, 2013

Going to downtown Leavenworth in Washington is probably the closest you'll ever get to visiting Munich without leaving the US. That's because downtown Leavenworth is modeled after a Bavarian village. So, you can expect the Leavenworth Oktoberfest ambiance to be right on the money. The Leavenworth Oktoberfest promises to be fun for everyone. There's Kinderplatz for the kiddies, where they can play with bouncy toys, climb walls and be entertained by clowns. For the older participants, there's beer aplenty and all the authentic German food they can eat. And there are live performances by Leavenworth's Musikkappelle group and guest bands straight from Germany, as well as dancing led by the Edelweiss Tanz Gruppe. Tickets are at $10 on Fridays and $20 on Saturdays. Children under 12 years old enter for free. So do active military personnel as long as they show their ID.

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New Ulm, Minnesota

When: October 4-5, 11-12, 2013

New Ulm celebrates Oktoberfest in not just one venue but four: Downtown New Ulm, Holiday Inn, Schell's Brewery, and Morgan Creek Vineyard. Downtown New Ulm will have the food booths, the trolley rides, the Schell Beer Wagon, and the 45-foot Glockenspiel, which will be the stage for musical performances. More musical performances await you at Holiday Inn, where you'll get to listen to German bands both homegrown and imported from Germany. There's a family-friendly party at Schell's Brewery, and for those who prefer German wines to beer, Morgan Creek Vineyard will host a cheese and wine tasting. Admission is free downtown, while tickets at the Holiday Inn are $5 on Fridays and $8 on Saturdays. At Schell's Brewery and Morgan Creek Vineyard, ticket prices are $5 and $25 each respectively.

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San Francisco, California

When: September 20-22, 2013

San Francisco has a thriving German community, and they come out to celebrate their heritage during the annual Oktoberfest by the Bay. The organizers have moved the event this year to Pier 48 to accommodate a larger crowd and more attractions. The music and the feasting will be non-stop, and while Fridays and Saturdays are for the 21+ group, the Sunday activities are for the kids. Headlining the live performances at Oktoberfest by the Bay are the internationally renowned Chico Bavarian Band and the Nature Friends Schuhplattler dance group. To join Oktoberfest by the Bay, you'll have to pay $25 for general admission and $75 for VIP tickets. VIP tickets include access to the food buffet and the private bathrooms, a commemorative pint, one free beer, and guaranteed seating. Kids 12 years and under can get in for free on Sunday, while tickets for children 13 to 18 years old go for $5. Participants are encouraged to show up at the festival in trachten - lederhosen and dirndl.

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Tulsa, Oklahoma

When: October 17-20, 2013

The Tulsa Oktoberfest is one of the most awaited annual events in Oklahoma. There, you will find everything that is to enjoy at an Oktoberfest, from the authentic German food and beer, to the arts and crafts booths, to the chicken dances and the wiener races. Not to be missed at the food stalls is the Bavarian cheesecake. While you're feasting and having fun, you'll be serenaded by the local bands and the German bands playing traditional music. The kiddies will have their own fun and games right inside Das Jugendzelt or the Children's Tent. Admission is $6, though children 12 years old and below get to enter for free.

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You may not be able to make it to the Oktoberfest in Munich this year, but chances are there's a homegrown Oktoberfest happening near you. So pack your RV and your camping gear and show up to the party.

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