Held annually in Munich, Germany, this 16-day festival traditionally runs from the third weekend in September through the first Sunday in October (Sept. 22-Oct. 7, 2012). It all began in 1810 as a royal celebration for the citizens of Munich to mark the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig (later King Ludwig I) to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen.
Today, Oktoberfest is the largest festival in the world, including amusement rides, costumes, music and, of course, food and beer. But you don’t have to fly to Germany to join the celebration — plenty of Oktoberfest festivals can be found in Central Pennsylvania, and they’re extended well into October.
Sept. 15-Oct. 7 — Oktoberfest at Appalachian Brewing Co., Camp Hill, Gettysburg, Harrisburg
The brewery will be pumping out live polka music on Friday and Saturday nights during Oktoberfest. Bavarian favorites like soft pretzels, jagerschnitzel, sauerbraten and schlachteplatte will be served alongside German-style brews.
Sept. 21-Oct. 21 — Oktoberfest at Lancaster Brewing Co., Harrisburg, Lancaster
During festival weekends, this place will be filled with Bavarian flair, along with its Oktoberfest and Hefeweizen beers. Feast on hearty favorites, including Best of the Wurst, a platter of four different handmade sausages.
Oct. 1-28 — Oktoberfest at Hershey Lodge, Hershey
At Hershey Lodge, you can celebrate Oktoberfest threefold — at Hershey Grill, The Forebay and Bears’ Den. Special menus at each restaurant will highlight authentic Bavarian food, including beer-brined German sausages, spaetzle and apple strudel.
Oct. 5 — Oktoberfest at Hollywood Casino, Grantville
With a roll of the dice, Hollywood becomes a Bavarian beer garden serenaded by the live tunes of The Oompah Band. You’ll find specials on Oktoberfest basics — Sam Adams beer, brats and pretzels. Try your luck in the "Hoist the Stein" contest.
Oct. 12-14 — Oktoberfest at the Carlisle Barracks, Army Heritage & Education Center, Middlesex Township
Break out the lederhosen and raise your beer stein to German traditions at this free event for all ages. Food and games will abound, and there also will be a special unveiling of the Army War College’s official brew.
Oct. 13 — Socctoberfest with the Harrisburg City Islanders, Skyline Sports Complex, City Island, Harrisburg
Experience Ocktoberfest with an Islanders twist! The soccer field will be transformed into a Bavarian-style beer hall, complete with big tents full of seasonal beers and German-style food, as well as games and live music.
Oct. 13 — Brews, Brats and Bands, Sovereign Bank Stadium, York
Presented by York Young Professionals, this event includes unlimited sampling of 30-plus craft beers, a bratwurst meal and live music. Don’t miss out on a chance to “Dunk the Brewer” and taste Oktoberfest beer varieties in the biergarten.
Oct. 20 — Oktoberfest in Emigsville, Alert Fire Hall, Emigsville
Join Alpenrose York, the area’s German-American society, for an evening of gemütlichkeit (cheer and coziness). Fill your belly with traditional pork and bratwurst, and then dance the night away.
Oct. 27-28 — Yorktoberfest, Sovereign Bank Stadium, York
If you’re into regional and international craft brews, this beer and wine festival has nearly tripled the number on tap this year, including local favorites like Troeg’s Brewing Co. and Liquid Hero Brewery.
It doesn’t have to be Oktoberfest to celebrate German delicacies. Family-owned Josie’s German Cakes & Market in Mechanicsburg provides authentic grocery products and deli items year-round. In Abbottstown, you’ll find comfort in Bavarian-style German cuisine whenever the mood strikes you at Hofbrauhaus Pub & Eatery, and weather permitting, you can relax in a German-style drinking garden at Bube’s Brewery’s Biergarten in Mount Joy.
Erica Streisfeld is the editor for custom publishing at Journal Multimedia, parent company of the Central Penn Business Journal, but she moonlights as a foodie and wino. Many people also know her as founder of the Harrisburg Cupcake Cup, a community cupcake competition that benefits the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, and owner of Little Ditty Pops. Follow her at @HbgFoodandWine.