How to Rock Oktoberfest with Kids

Oktoberfest, the world’s greatest beer festival, is held annually in Munich and other cities around the world. Stretching from September to October, this salute to beer seems off-limits for kids at first glance. But this isn’t touring wine country with the littles. It is, if done right, the coolest state fair and carnival and concert wrapped in to one. This is one family event where every single one of you can have fun.

It’s ironic that Oktoberfest has gotten such a raucous reputation given its origin as a celebration of the wedding between Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria and Crown Princess Therese von Saxony-Hildburghausen in 1810. The rowdiest event was a horse race to commemorate the marriage. No beer was served. It wasn’t until later that it established its ode to beer, drawing over six million people per year to Munich.

Oktoberfest never abandoned its roots though and continues to provide entertainment for both kids and adults. We are coming upon the season now and the weather’s cooling nicely for an outdoor weekend with the family. If you want to embrace the festivities, here are few tips to get the most out of Oktoberfest with kids:

Go early

There’s only so much a person can drink before noon, which makes the earlier hours the most kid-friendly. Go early when most everyone is still within the legal limits of responsible adulthood. Weekdays are even better and less crowded if you can swing it.

Make it to the parade

Most festivals kick off with a parade. There are men and women in traditional German dress and live music and horses pulling carts of barrels of beer with great ceremony. It’s full of pomp and circumstance and good cheer like any hometown parade and makes a great attraction for kids.

Let the kids dress up

If they are going to see the grownups in dirndls and lederhosen in the parade and wandering the grounds, they might as well join the fun. Every kid loves a costume. It’s also a good opportunity to give a lesson on culture and history. Why the apron over the skirt? Why the knee socks and shorts and feathers in hats?

Venture outside the beer tents

You know how they tell you to shop the perimeter of the grocery store for the healthiest meals? The same goes for the festival. Yes, the beer tents are where it’s at for the main event, but outside you can find carnival games and pony rides and petting zoos and carousels and face-painting and all the other things kids love.

Eat all the food

Candy apples, schnitzel sandwiches, obatzda and brezn (cheese dip and pretzel), bratwurst…let them try it all. This is fair food of another culture. Consider it a way to expand their palates.

Catch the live music

Oompah music is the traditional German brass band that rocks the tuba among other instruments at Oktoberfest. Make sure to stop by one of the stages to catch them in all their glory and see if you can spot an alphorn or two on the side, the long horns that originated in the Alps.

If you’re in the United States, here are a few of the top cities for Oktoberfest celebrations: and if you can’t make it there, check your state for festivities:

Don’t skip Oktoberfest just because you think the kids won’t have fun (or you won’t with them along). Give it a try. You might find the one family event where nobody complains.


*Thinking out loud.