Oktoberfest and foliage are arguably the biggest focus points of fall travel. And the benefit of Oktoberfest—besides, of course, the beer!—is that you don’t have to outguess nature about the peak time to visit. Although you can find literally hundreds of self-styled Oktoberfest celebrations around the world, only four are major league, with annual attendance of a half-million or more. I’ve listed them below, along with several other smaller but still fun places to celebrate Oktoberfest 2017.
Of course, Munich remains the world’s best Oktoberfest—you can’t beat the original, and, with anywhere from 5 to 7 million annual visitors, still by far the biggest. Munich’s Oktoberfest 2017 runs from September 16 through October 3. It’s so big that most of the action is in outdoor tents erected in major streets and plazas, and you need a reservation for each tent you want to visit.
Flights to Munich for Oktoberfest 2017 are still available. In my most recent check, economy round-trips cost $600-$900 from the East Coast and $800-$1,100 from the West Coast. As usual, some of the lowest fares require a connection somewhere in Europe.
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Hotel space is already tight—and expensive. Available downtown spots are going for $400 and up per night, and only a few hotels on the outskirts are available for less than $200. Fortunately, Munich public transit is good.
Cincinnati’s Oktoberfest Zinzinnati is one of three legitimate claimants as runner-up to Munich. This year it runs on September 15-17. You can still find plenty of airline seats, and it’s an easy drive from much of the Eastern and Midwestern U.S. A few downtown hotels are already sold out for the weekend, however, and most available rooms are $200 or higher.
Another contender, Canada’s Oktoberfest 2017 in southern Ontario runs October 6-14, and it might be the best choice for beer drinkers on a budget. Although the room supply seems to be tightening, you can still find accommodations for well under $100 per night. As with Cincinnati, Kitchener-Waterloo is an easy drive from much of the Northeastern and Midwestern U.S. Toronto and Buffalo are probably your best bets for cheap airfares; VIA Rail Canada and Ontario Go transit serve Kitchener from Toronto five times daily by train.
Oktoberfest? In Brazil? Yep—many call it the biggest Oktoberfest in the Americas. Blumenau is in southern Brazil, between Sao Paulo and Porto Alegre, with a population largely of German and Italian heritage. This year, its Oktoberfest runs October 4-22.
Getting to Blumenau isn’t easy. The nearest airport, Navegantes, has no direct air service to North America, so to get there, fly to Sao Paulo or Porto Alegre, then take local carriers Azul or Gol. Currently, the lowest posted round-trip fares from Chicago to Navegantes are in the $1,000 range with lousy connections; the best connections are around $1,400. Presumably, you wouldn’t go all that way just for an Oktoberfest; Blumenau is about 400 miles from Sao Paulo and 500 miles from Iguazu Falls. As with the other big Oktoberfest sites, hotel space in the city center is tight, and available rooms are $150 and higher.
A Different League: New Braunfels, Texas
New Braunfels, Texas, is often included in Oktoberfest lists, but its festival is actually a November “Wurstfest,” this year November 3-12. It’s northeast of San Antonio with plenty of air service and hotel accommodations.
The Minor Leagues: Other Places to Celebrate Oktoberfest 2017
Hundreds of cities and towns around the world boast at least some kind of Oktoberfest activity, even if it’s only a one-day beer and sausage promotion by a local hotel or restaurant. If you’re looking for something a bit more authentic, the best Oktoberfest locations in North America are those with a legitimate claim to German heritage: Frankenmuth, Michigan; Helen, Georgia; Leavenworth, Washington; Mount Angel, Oregon; and New Ulm, Minnesota.
This feature originally appeared in Smart Travel.