I flew all the way around the world to drink beer with Germans. Seriously. Several times. But the one that I am going to talk about today is Oktoberfest.
My family is German heritage and going to Germany was a great treat for me. We decided to go in the fall and pop over to Munich for Oktoberfest. Two years later we took my parents to the festival that we had so much fun!
I read many many blogs and tips on how to do Oktoberfest. Hopefully I can make it easier for you because I have no hidden agenda (I am not selling tickets, etc).
First, I need to give a disclaimer that everything I am writing about is my experience. There may be better ways or different ways to do it but this was what worked for us.
So, now on to the festival… after you figure it out, it really isn’t very complicated.
Get yourself a copy of the map of the fairgrounds well ahead of time. If there are specific tents you want to get into mark them.
The way it works is each brewer has a tent (or tents). Some are enormous, and some are quaint. Most are inside, however I have sat outside a tent too. If you are going on a very busy day, you will need to get a reservation. We timed it to not be there on a Saturday and never needed a reservation. If you want a guarantee into a tent, then you should get a reservation but honestly if the tent is that crowded, you would be best to go to the next one anyway.
Timing is Everything
This site as a pretty good calendar of days that are good and those that are crowded. There is also a neat guide to help you: Oktoberfest Guide Link
We always timed getting to the festival around 3pm. Then the folks who got there at lunch are leaving but the evening crowd hasn’t arrived yet. Aim for a hotel within walking distance as driving is not an option and the trains are packed. Pay a little more for location.
As you walk around you will notice that probably half the people are in traditional German attire. These are expensive and while I always wanted one, carrying it back with me was not an option. There are tons of shops around the festival (and inside) where you can purchase clothing of any sort.
You will find that the entrance to the festival is very open. I was expecting bag checks and guards and such. Nope. Just go on in, very civilized.
Like most festivals, there is a carnival (highly recommend) and tons of places to buy things. The “tents” are not really Tents but more elaborate buildings set up for beer drinking. You pick the one you want to go into and just find a seat. If you can’t find one sometimes the women servers will show you a seat or tell people to move down to make room. This happened to us later in the evening but we never had a problem during the day.
Day vs Evening Events
During the day most people are sitting on the seats, acting normal. Then people start standing up and chugging beer. I once saw a very theatrical performance of one person, then two, then another each standing up and chugging beer. Then everyone stood up and the place just switched from calm to party central in two seconds. It was amazing.
The Most Important Thing
So, you found your spot to drink, now what? The women will come by and ask if you want beer. There is no option. If you are in the tent, you drink that tent’s beer. Sometimes they will add lemonade too it and they might have water, but you are there for one reason only.
And that reason is the chicken.
Yes folks, the chicken.
Most of the tents have some version of chicken. It is the best damn thing you will ever eat in your life. You can only find this awesome of a rotisserie chicken in a tent after a beer or three, but I will tell you it will change your life.
Some of the tents also have pretzels, radishes and other food. That is good too, but don’t fill up until you have the chicken.
Make sure you have determined how much cash you will need. You can determine how many beers you will drink x the cost of the beer (check before you go). It is hard to determine because the beers are big and you want to drink them pretty quick or they will get warm, but not too quick where you don’t remember the festival. (reference the link above for some great money ideas).
If you are thinking of going and aren’t sure, just GO! Even if the worst case is that you don’t get into any tents, you can still hang out outside the tent in the beer garden and it would still be a lovely time. The festival is unlike anything I have ever seen and it should be on everyone’s bucket list.
Enjoy yourself, don’t drink too much that you ruin your trip, and eat lots of chicken!