Oktoberfest. What can I say about it? It's AWESOME. Definitely a bucket list item. Dressing up in traditional Bavarian garb, standing on benches and chugging liters of beer as thousands cheer you on, and stuffing your face with the best roasted chicken and soft pretzels you've ever tasted? Count me in! Munich is the hub for all Oktoberfest activities, they even have special park grounds, Theresienwiese, where they set up ginormous, bright colored tents, quaint wooden booths selling bratwursts and gingerbread necklaces (take it from me, this gingerbread is NOT for eating), and amusement park rides to complete the festive atmosphere. And oddly enough, Oktoberfest occurs during the month of September, with the first weekend of October usually being the last weekend of the fest. This is because the very first Oktoberfest, held in 1810, was held in honor of Prince Ludwig's marriage to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. Over the years, the festivities have been extended and eventually moved to September for better weather conditions. Of course, there are many other villages throughout Germany that throw their own Oktoberfest celebrations at this time of year, but on a smaller scale and with less tourists (which is a fantastic way to go if you want a more authentic, intimate experience).
Anyway, coming to Oktoberfest, you MUST wear a dirndl (traditionally for the women) or lederhosen (traditionally for the men), because it just truly adds to the experience. Yes, there are those in jeans and sweatshirts, but did you really come all this way just to observe? Get into it! And by the way, dirndls are flattering on all shapes and sizes! And lederhosen, let's just say you won't be disappointed ;)
So rumor has it that you have to reserve a table a year in advance to get into a tent. Not true. While yes, that's preferable, it's also extremely difficult, as lots of German regulars already have tables saved for them every year, which vastly limits the stock for us tourists. Trust me, I tried. What you can do is arrive early, get near the front of the line, then run like mad when they let you inside to grab a table. That might make some of you planners out there stressed, but trust me, it's fun and really not all that stressful (take it from a fellow OCD planner). It's important you get a table, because they won't serve you if you aren't seated. But it is definitely doable, just get up early!
I have gone to Oktoberfest for several years in a row because it is such a good time, enjoying good food, great beer, and the company of friends and all the fun people you meet throughout the day. And oh, will you meet fun people, they come from all over the world to experience Oktoberfest. With such a fun environment of camaraderie, you are sure to leave with at least a few new, international friends. And that is just one of the many reasons that I love Europe. You get to meet all these awesome people from all over the world!
Moving on, you might say, "But I don't like beer! This is a horrible idea for me!" And to that I say, NOT TRUE. Have you ever tried a radler? It's magical. It's half beer, half lemonade or grapefruit soda, and it's sooo good! You can't even really taste the beer! Still not your thing? You can order other beverages (spritz, anyone?) or non-alcoholic drinks and truly enjoy the food and atmosphere, as it is an experience in and of itself (and probably better without the fuzzy haze many others will be experiencing ;) Really, the food tastes THAT good, this isn't your average carnival fare.
Now, there are two sessions for all the tents at Oktoberfest, morning to early afternoon, and afternoon to night. Most people with reservations try to book the evening, so they kick you out in the early afternoon. What to do now? Well, you have several options! 1. Roam the grounds! There is tons more food and fun carnival rides to be had (although if you drank as much as I had, you might want to steer clear of the rides for a bit...)
2. Explore Munich. It's such an amazing city with so much to offer. You could visit the Marienplatz, a central square in the middle of they city, where you can view the beautiful façade of the New City Hall and admire the giant Glockenspiel (or bell tower) as life-sized figures dance in and out telling the story of a marriage and a plague that occurred in the 16th century. Another option is to visit the world famous Hobrauhaus, a beer hall built in 1589, known as the location where Hitler and the National Socialists held their first meeting. Continue the festivities there with more bratwursts, pretzels, and beer, and enjoy as the oompah band adds that quintessential German ambiance.
3. Take a nap and prepare for the evening! A lot of tourists aren't aware of this venue, but it's a fun one! It's the Oktoberfest After Party, or "Das Wiesnzelt" at the Löwenbräukeller am Stiglmaierplatz. You need reservations to get in, but fortunately these don't need to be booked nearly as far in advance as the tables on the Theresienwiese grounds. It's basically Oktoberfest inside the event hall/restaurant/beer grounds, with the same amazing food, beer, and a oompah band. The requisite long tables and benches are all there, so you can still stand on the benches and have your chugging competitions. There are also really cute Christmas market-esque booths that will sell you shots of schnapps! This venue was an awesome place to continue the festivities for those who just didn't get enough earlier in the day. Anyway, I recommend visiting both venues and deciding what you enjoy more!