Looking for a way to celebrate Oktoberfest without a round trip ticket to Munich?
While there is nothing wrong with enjoying the festivities in Germany, it might not be quite as attainable to some as a trip to Big Bear Lake, California that has one of the best Oktoberfest venues that the United States offers. It’s been rated in the Top 10, and in my opinion should be even higher in the ratings.
This year Big Bear Lake is celebrating the 49th year of what has become famous the world over, and with good reason.
In 1971 a local, German, immigrant couple, Hans and Erika Bandows, with huge hearts and a stellar work ethic, founded a Big Bear Lake tradition that has continued for nearly five decades, and has entertained tens of thousands of visitors and locals alike.
While a lot has happened to make it grander and more elaborate since that very first day that local Burgermeister Hans first struck a mallet to a wooden barrel of Oktoberfest beer, declaring “Ozphat Is,” the charm and merriment continues, although of much more epic proportions.
Hans and Erika’s family now lovingly help to keep the tradition alive and continue to make improvements every year.
This year nearly a half dozen authentic German bands provide the line up of authentic oompah music from polkas to waltzes, swing, and even rock and roll. Live music, excellent German food and crafts, contests, dancing, and performances all add to the fun.
Have you ever yodeled, sawed a log, carried steins, or drank German beer? What are you waiting for? You can compete with the world champions or just your own family and friends. We did!
Did we mention food? Authentic streudel and sausage is brought in from real German bakeries and butchers as special delicacies just specifically for the event. If that doesn’t impress you, then the schnitzel, German potato salad, pickled eggs, pigs knuckles, and sauerkraut will. Over 70 miles of these famous third-pound wursts, have been enjoyed by Big Bear Oktoberfest over the years. (If you linked the hearty sausages end to end.) Seems to me it’s time to start an 80 mile wurst club. There were several types to choose from and they were so delicious.
Then there’s the beer, and Oktoberfest at Big Bear Lake does it right with over 25 offerings both domestic and imported. The same beers poured in Munich are offered, including Warsteiner, Paulaner, King Ludwig, and Dunkel.
Oktoberfest kicks off in the beginning of September and runs through the first Saturday of November. The peak-season usually begins in October as September weekends tend to be less crowded while the alpine weather can be still quite warm with cool evenings. Sundays are special for families in Big Bear Lake with Oktoberfest Sundays being family day with free admission for kids under 12 and with German fun geared toward families with Children’s contests at 3:00 p.m. Weekend evenings get a little more crowded as the night progresses and become more adult oriented.
Lots of people dress up in authentic German garb or costume. Several vendors offer Oktoberfest-friendly apparel that you can purchase at the event or you can dress up before you go if you want to arrive ready.
Should you choose to imbibe, the Big Bear Trolley offers free rides to and from Oktoberfest on Saturdays and Sundays. There is also a wonderful designated driver program offered at any food concession where they will provide the driver with a wristband good for free non-alcoholic drinks.
We stayed in a lovely cabin offered by Resort Town Rentals. It was exquisitely decorated and appointed with a huge rock fireplace, gorgeous deck overlooking the alpine vistas, large family room, game room, sauna, and spa under the stars. It had a full kitchen, several bedrooms, a pool table, and luxuriously comfortable linens, bedding, and toiletries. I highly recommend considering a stay at one of their many charming vacation rentals. They have something perfect for every size family or budget, and most within minutes of Oktoberfest and/or free shuttle transportation.
We thoroughly enjoyed soaking in the spa on our private deck, under the spectacular blanket of stars that Big Bear Lake is so well known for. It felt fabulous after enjoying hours of dancing, dining, and contests at Oktoberfest. We were, of course, on “Big Bear Time,” which we savor any season we are lucky enough to visit.