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Oktoberfest, Anybody?

SmarterTravel

You don’t have to be German to enjoy hot sausages and cold beer, do you? And what’s more German than Oktoberfest? Because some 20 percent of the American population can claim some sort of roots to Germany, you can find Oktoberfests happening from late September through October in dozens of U.S. cities and towns. And if you’re a stickler for authenticity, you can still catch a flight to the genuine article in Munich.

This column was suggested by a press release from the good folks at Kayak proclaiming its 10 top Oktoberfest picks in the United States: New Braunfels, Texas; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Helen, Georgia; Leavenworth, Washington; Portland, Oregon; Las Vegas, Nevada; Cincinnati, Ohio; La Crosse, Wisconsin; Chicago, Illinois; and San Francisco, California. That’s certainly a good list—an eclectic mix of giant diversified destinations that celebrate practically everything and small towns with a special Oktoberfest focus.

But I have to chuckle at the “hook” for Kayak’s list. I guess when you want traction with a release such as this, you need to follow Mazeppa’s recommendation in Gypsy: “You Gotta Get a Gimmick.” Kayak’s gimmick is “the savings for each city exceeded 50 percent versus the same trip to Munich,” based on a combination of airfares and a two-night stay. C’mon, Kayak; do you folks really want us to believe that the German veneer in New Braunfels or Tulsa is even close to the authentic experience of a weekend in Munich? Feh! Still, Kayak’s blog post makes a good case for each of its selections and provides lots of additional detail. And if you select New Braunfels over Munich, you can at least avoid jet lag.

But Kayak’s isn’t the only list of Oktoberfest destination recommendations:

  • About Travel cites Cincinnati as the largest Oktoberfest in the U.S. and second largest after Munich, no surprise given the city’s longstanding German association—after all, the locals are frequently called “Rheinlanders.” Other places on About Travel’s list are Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., New Orleans, Atlanta, Phoenix, Reno/Tahoe, and several Texas cities, including New Braunfels. About Travel even notes the existence of a “Texas German” dialect. Who knew? It also links to local regional Oktoberfests in the Northwest—Washington, Oregon, Idaho—and in “just about every state” in the Southeast.
  • The Wikipedia disagrees with About Travel, claiming that the festival in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, is the world’s number two, not Cincinnati.
  • All Things Oktoberfest lists worldwide Oktoberfests. It includes Denver, LaCrosse, Seattle, Fredericksburg, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco in the U.S. along with Kitchener-Waterloo and Toronto in Canada.
  • The website Funtober lists still another top 10, from number 10 in Hickory, North Carolina, through Cincinnati, Denver, Los Angeles, Cleveland, Mount Angel, Appleton, Leavenworth, and La Crosse, up to number one in New Braunfels. It also posts links to lists in 10 large U.S. cities and to festivals in every state, including even Alaska (Alyeska Resort), Hawaii (several hotels and resorts), and Wyoming (Jackson Hole). For some reason, the Wyoming listing also includes two in Montana. Go figure.
  • Another website, Gayot.com, recommends Addison, Big Bear Lake, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Denver, Frankenmuth, Fredericksburg, and Helen.

Strangely absent from these “best” lists is Milwaukee, in some ways the most “German” city in the U.S. If you like the beer and wurst idea, but can’t make an official Oktoberfest celebration, however, you might think of Milwaukee as a good place to visit any time of the year. You can also find a handful of German restaurants, brauhauses, and such in most other big Midwestern cities. Sadly, New York’s Yorkville, once a hotbed of German restaurants, is down to just two, although others are spotted around Manhattan.

Still, you can’t discuss Oktoberfest without honoring Munich at the top of the list. And the nice part of Munich is that you can do the beer, wurst, sauerbraten, and schnitzel routine any time of the year. Some folks even prefer to avoid the crowds at Oktoberfest and go during more relaxed off-season times. Wherever and whenever your Oktoberfest preference, prosit!

Ed Perkins on Travel is copyright (c) 2014 Tribune Media Services, Inc. 

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