To help you experience it properly — we're talking music, food, and lots of quirky fun — we've rounded up the best spots to indulge in schnitzel and lagers outside of Munich (well, at least within an hour’s drive of D.C.). Our advice? You can worry about the carbs later. Bitte!
It goes a little above and beyond the traditions of its German namesake, but we’re not complaining: Oktoberfest Reston has planned a weekend of food, beer, wine, music (three stages with live bands, to be exact), fitness (there’s a 5K on Saturday), and even a full-fledged carnival. Even better? It's all free. Don’t miss the famed Guns 'n’ Hoses Chili Cook-off, where members of Reston’s fire and police departments don aprons and work their magic with beans and cumin to win your vote (and heart).
When: Friday, October 5, from 3-11 p.m.; Saturday, October 6, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday, October 7, from noon to 8 p.m.
Where: Reston Town Center, 11900 Market Street, Reston; 703-707-9045.
Germantown Oktoberfest is a natural choice for lovers of the Rhineland — it is Germantown, after all. This community festival is worth the trek — the biergarten, wine tastings, and plentiful wurst aside, it’s also the perfect excuse to put those polka skills to use (and thank Grandpa for all the lessons).
When: Saturday, October 6, from 9:45 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: High Point Farm, 23730 Frederick Road, Clarksburg; 240-777-5334. Admission is $12.
Capitol City Brewing Company is gearing up for its 13th annual Mid-Atlantic Oktoberfest, where more than 50 breweries are serving up 4-ounce samples. We did the math for you: That’s 25 beers if you sample each one once. You'll score 10 drink tickets for $25, which works out to $2.50 a beer — so, it’s basically your college bar experience, reincarnated with way better suds. You can opt out of drinks and get free admission, and there are plenty of festivities and food to make it worth your while.
When: Saturday, October 6, from noon to 7 p.m.
Where: Capital City Brewing Company, Shirlington Village, 4001 Campbell Avenue, Arlington; 703-578-3888.
Photos: Courtesy of Capital City Brewing Company, Oktoberfest Reston, and Old Stein Inn
Glover Park standby Old Europe is the perfect low-key alternative to guzzling beers and brats in a tent. The venue has crafted a special menu filled with classic German fare, such as the Schlachtplatt (a platter of basically every meat available in Western Europe), as well as Bavarian pretzels and $5 steins of Spaten Oktoberfest bier — the same brew that's served at the fairgrounds in Munich.
When: Menu available now through the end of October.
Where: Old Europe, 2434 Wisconsin Avenue NW; 202-333-7600.
Oktoberfest at the Kentlands has been happening for the past 21 years — so, let’s just say the organizers know a few things about bratwurst and beer by now. Come for the food, stay for the live performances by authentic German bands. Our favorite part of this free shindig: The Alt Washingtonia Bavarian dancers, who'll teach you all their moves.
When: Sunday, October 14, from noon to 4 p.m.
Where: Kentlands Village Green, 320 Kent Square Road, Gaithersburg; 301-258-6350.
Leesburg's Döner Bistro is propping up a tent and hosting a four-day celebration of authentic German food, music, and beer (obvi). If the traditional Bavarian bands aren’t your thing, don't worry — the hosts are throwing Euro disco into the Old World mix. We're expecting the next best thing to a German discotheque, right in our Virgina backyard. We’ll see you there.
When: Thursday, October 11, from 4-9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, October 12-13, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday, October 14, from 1-5 p.m.
Where: 202 Harrison Street SE, Leesburg; 703-779-7880.
Photos: Courtesy of Snallygaster, Germantown Oktoberfest, and Oktoberfest Reston
If you do nothing else in October, head to Snallygaster, the gargantuan beer celebration hosted by the folks from Churchkey and Rustico. This party promises “epically unbridled hedonism” for a good cause: It benefits Arcadia Food, a non-profit initiative dedicated to creating a sustainable local food system in D.C., and bringing produce to underserved neighborhoods and schools. We'll drink to that.
When: Saturday, October 15, from 1-5 p.m.
Where: Yards Park, 3rd and Water streets SE; no phone. Tickets are $25 to $50; purchase in advance here.
The Charles County Oktoberfest is a little farther afield, but this party promises to bring Germany to Southern Maryland — think wursts, wieners, beer, and live music, plus keg tosses and lederhosen-clad accordion players.
When: Saturday, October 13, from noon to 7 p.m., and Sunday, October 14, from noon to 5 p.m.
Where: Charles County Fairgrounds, 8440 Fairgrounds Road, La Plata; 301-934-1268. Tickets are $5 to $15; purchase at the gate or online.
If you're after the real deal, Old Stein Inn is a tried-and-true favorite — it’s a contender for the Best German Restaurant in America, actually. And this spot has some big plans for Germany’s favorite festival – check it out for the cuisine, biergarten, and rotating appearances by traditional bands.
When: Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through October 28. See a full schedule of events here.
Where: 1143 Central Avenue, Edgewater; 410-798 6807.
Photos: Courtesy of Old Europe, Old Stein Inn, and Oktoberfest Reston