The Oktoberfest tradition started in 1810 to celebrate the October 12th marriage of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig to the Saxon-Hildburghausen Princess Therese. The citizens of Munich were invited to join in the festivities, which were held over five days on the fields in front of the city gates. The main event of the original Oktoberfest was a horse race.

Today Oktoberfest is known around the world for its traditional folk music, German food, German beer and dancing. Every year the mayor of Munich, Germany kicks off the 17-day Oktoberfest celebration by tapping a keg of beer and announcing "O'zapft is!" ("It is tapped!"), and local celebrations take place around the world.

Most festivities offer German-style soft pretzels, grilled German sausages, sauerkraut, pickles and other traditional German foods, and there is always plenty of beer. Märzen, Oktoberfest beer, is a dark and strong bottom-fermented beer that is lagered for at least 30 days and contains up to 6 percent alcohol. Before modern-day refrigeration, it was brewed in March and allowed to age through the summer, so that it was ready to drink by late summer or early fall.

Oktoberfest is also known as much for its traditional folk music, marches and polkas - the oompah music Germany is famous for around the world - as it is for its beer. Typically at celebrations in Germany, the music grows louder as the evening wears on. More and more people begin to sing, link arms and dance on tables, swinging beer mugs from side to side, while the band offers up plenty of toasts to contentment, congeniality and relaxation.

Here in the Washington area, this family-fun fall festival is held in many local communities with one-day bashes to week-long and month-long celebrations. Some of the Oktoberfest celebrations in Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia are listed below.

  • Heurich House Museum Oktoberfest

    September 16 and 17, 1-4 p.m. 1307 New Hampshire Avenue NW Washington, D.C. The museum will celebrate Brewmaster Chrisian Heurich's German heritage with local beer, German-style soft pretzels, fresh grilled German sausages, sauerkraut and pickles. Celebrate with traditional Oktoberfest music and tour the historic home. heurichhouse.org

  • Snallygaster DC

    September 23, 1-6 p.m. The Yards, SW Washington, D.C. The festival will feature more than 300 different ales and lagers, food vendors, live music, DJ's, recreational and family-friendly activities. Admission contributions will benefit the Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture. Drink and food tickets will be sold separately. snallygasterdc.com

  • Biergarten Haus Oktoberfest

    Through October. 1355 H St NE Washington, D.C. The Bavarian pub offers their regular drafts and 11 additional Oktoberfest drafts, food and live music. biergartenhaus.com

  • Lovettsville's Oktoberfest

    September 23. In celebration of the town's German heritage, festivities will include food, crafts and entertainment. Loudoun, VA. lovettsvilleoktoberfest.com

  • Fort Belvoir Oktoberfest

    September 28-October 1, 6-10 p.m. Fremont Field, Fort Belvoir, VA. The annual festival, open to the general public, includes authentic German food and beer, carnival rides, live entertainment, kids activities and more. belvoir.armymwr.com

  • Capitol City Brewing Company Oktoberfest

    September 30, 12-7 p.m. Shirlington Village, Arlington, VA. Sample beers from more than 65 breweries and a variety of foods. Enjoy lively German entertainment. Admission: $30, free for non-drinkers. Shirlington library will host kid's events. capcitybrew.com

  • Tysons Biergarten

    Visit this large beer hall and biergarten year round for live music, and traditional German food, wine and beer. Oktoberfest is celebrated each Saturday through October, and every weekend you can experience something different. Enjoy an IPA & Cider festival, beer tasting with 50 pumpkin and harvest ales, and family-friendly gatherings with moon bounces, games, prizes and live music in its large outdoor space. See website for details. tysonsbiergarten.com

  • Frederick Oktoberfest

    September 29-October 1. Saturday 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Frederick Fairgrounds in Frederick, MD. This is a large Oktoberfest with live music, kid's games, German foods, Biergarten and family fun. Admission: $5 in advance, $10 at the gate. Children ages 2 and under are free. frederickoktoberfest.org

  • Das Best Oktoberfest

    September 30 at National Harbor, MD. The festival will include over 150 unique beers, German wines and foods. Oompah bands, live music, contests and more. Admission: $40 and up. Children ages 12 and under are free. dasbestoktoberfest.com

  • Oktoberfest at Hard Bargain Farm

    October 7, 1-6 p.m. Accokeek, MD. Sponsored by the Alice Ferguson Foundation, the event features German cuisine, imported Spaten Beer, pressed cider, hayrides, kids activities and more. All proceeds benefit environmental education. fergusonfoundation.org/events/oktoberfest-2017

  • Oktoberfest at the Kentlands

    October 8, 12-5 p.m. Kentlands Village Green, Gaithersburg, MD. The City of Gaithersburg and the Kentlands Citizens Assembly sponsor this family-friendly event featuring Bavarian music, dance, food, crafts, pony rides, moon bounces, pumpkin decorating, face painting and more. www.gaithersburgmd.gov/leisure/special-events/oktoberfest-at-the-kentlands

  • Das Best Oktoberfest

    October 14 in Baltimore, MD at the M&T Bank stadium lots. Over 60,000 people generally attend this annual event. VIP admission is from noon to 2 p.m. and regular admission is from 2 to 6 p.m. Over 150 local, domestic and international beers, wines, schnapps and German food will be available for purchase. Enjoy live music from regional bands, polka and oompah bands, chicken dancing and contests offering prizes. dasbestoktoberfest.com

  • Berlin Octoberfest

    October 14 in Berlin, MD. Enjoy music, German food, craft vendors and a fall sidewalk sale. Beer garden by Burley Oak Brewing Company. Games and activities such as face painting, scarecrow making, pumpkin painting and more. Annual cornhole tournament at Burley Tavern. berlinmainstreet.com

  • Oktoberfest at Schifferstadt

    Oct 21, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Oct 22, 12-5 p.m. in Frederick, MD. Enjoy great food, lively German music, historic demonstrations and hand-made products from art and craft vendors. Free. frederickcountylandmarksfoundation.org


Jennifer Poole is Assistant Editor at Washington Parent magazine.