If you don’t know what Oktoberfest is all about, then you probably aren’t reading this article to begin with since you have never seen a computer nor the light of the sun. I’ll try to forgive you but honestly, your life sounds lonely. Lucky for you I’ve done an incredible amount of hands-on research to help your trip to Munich’s signature festival be the wild success every beer festival was meant to be. You may be blinded by boobs, drowned in dunkel, or even hopped up on hops but that’s what Europe in the fall is all about. Duh.
I’ll spare you the Oktoberfest history lesson on how the ‘fest (which is held mostly in September) began in Munich over 200 years ago. I won’t bother telling you about how it began as a celebration of the wedding between Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen because that’s just a waste of what little attention span you have left.
I won’t bore you with mundane Oktoberfest facts like how each year 7.2 million really awesome people attend Oktoberfest and consume 6.9 million beers and half a million chickens. Who wants to hear all that? I won’t even waste space with a hilarious list of items recovered by the lost & found office that includes:
- 900 IDs and passports
- 530 wallets
- 330 cell phones
- 2 wedding rings
- a mobile cat carrier (oh, this is getting good)
- a set of drum-kit cymbals
- German Federal Cross of Merit 2nd class medal (drinking division?)
- an electric wheelchair (“It’s a miracle!”)
I know you’re just here for the beer so I’ll keep this intro short and sweet (ahem, see photo below). In fact, if you want to just get right to it, you can skip the rest of the list and I’ll sum up the entire article in two pieces of advice: DO attend Munich Oktoberfest. DON’T not attend Munich Oktoberfest. You’re welcome.
DO dress the part.
I mean, what is Oktoberfest without the dirndls and lederhosen? A regular
Friday night Monday morning, that’s what it is. Wait. Chugging beers by the liter is not how you spend your weekdays?
I purchased my dirndl three years ago on my first trip to Munich and I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve had the pleasure of wearing it. Local beer festival? Your brother’s college graduation? A cousin’s beachside wedding? I know what I’m wearing!
How can you really experience this centuries old festival dressed in jeans and a Jurassic Park t-shirt, for instance? Embrace the gemütlichkeit! Don’t just experience Oktoberfest; be the Oktoberfest experience. Pretzel necklace also recommended but not required. If you’d like to know where you can get your very own, hit me up and I bet I could direct you through the alleys to the correct shop. Or we could at least have fun trying!
There are two fantastic shops for buying dirndls in Munich’s Marienplatz if you want to wait until you get there OR you can check out the massive selection of dirndls on Amazon if you’re like me and JUST CAN’T WAIT! The dirndls are BYOB however. Bring your own boobies.
Let me say a few things about lederhosen. Taken apart, this could possibly be one of the least sexy ensembles out there. Knee socks with the bottom half cut off? Leather shorts, for cryin’ out loud? A crotch flap? A chest bib? What are you, an overgrown baby? Nein danke. But put it all together? Well guten tag!
DON’T show up “whenev.”
Oh, you sweet, sweet newbie. Oktoberfest isn’t the sort of thing you can just show up to. You and the sun are going to have to race each other there and you better win! Remember earlier when I said (didn’t say…) 7.2 million people will be attending Oktoberfest this year? Over a period of 16 days? I’ll do the math for you – that’s 450,000 people a day. Do you want that beer or do you want that beer, soldier? What are you waiting for? Get up. Get going! There are only so many seats for so many butts in the 32 beer tents at Oktoberfest. And since I still have my calculator out I can tell you that that is 14,062.5 butts in each tent. Someone must be sitting on the edge of the bench.
At Oktoberfest, the only way to get a beer is to be sitting in a beer tent. Not doing the chicken dance. Not marching around pretending to play the tuba. Sitting. And the chances of you getting a seat is better the earlier you arrive. And puh-lease, like you haven’t had beer before breakfast before. I don’t want to hear it.
I would also advise you to plan your trip during the week. That’s just obvious bar patronage 101. The photos you will see in this article were all taken on a MONDAY MORNING. I can only imagine what a Friday or Saturday night look like. So many butts.
And since you’re wondering: Yes, you can make reservations. Each tent has different restrictions but what I remember from last year was that you needed to book in groups of 10 and they are usually sold out as early as January. Each tent has a reservation line (hope you speak German!) so get to dialing. Good luck!
DO work on your upper body strength prior to your trip.
Maß beers are HEAVY. I usually use both hands (and biceps, triceps, and generous amount of core strength) to drink my beer and holding it up for a photo is a feat in itself. Repeat 1,000 times. You may want to switch arms periodically so you don’t end up like these guys.
Update: I just learned that a 1-liter stein of beer weighs approximately five pounds. I thought for sure it was like 20. OK, well, a few bicep curls never hurt anybody anyway. If you want, you can set yourself up with an Oktoberfest training regime a la Beerfest.
DON’T limit yourself to one tent.
As mentioned before, there are 32 tents at Oktoberfest. Some are large tents holding around 10,000 people at a time, and others are smaller tents of varying size (holding between 100-5,000+). Why should you limit yourself to just one? They each have their own unique atmosphere and you may be shocked by how the day changes upon entering a new tent. I went to four tents on my Monday at Oktoberfest and definitely liked some more than others. The Oktoberfest website has a great page that summarizes each of them for you.
I understand that it may be hard for some to tent hop. You’ve got your butt all warm on a bench and may be a little unsure of your walking capabilities. Plus, the second your tush lifts off that seat, someone else has already snatched it. The chances of finding another prime seat later in the day are slim but not impossible (depending on the size of your group of course but let’s face it, this late in the day, what are the chances that your whole group is still together?) and definitely worth it when you find a tent you like even better than the last.
Hacker Pschorr – Bavarian Heaven
- Favorite of the day
- Fabulous Oktoberfest food (AND BEER)
- Great music and atmosphere
- Love those clouds, makes me feel like I’m in the 5th level of Super Mario Brothers 3
- Least favorite
- Felt less like Oktoberfest and more like a frat party
- Smelled like sweat, testosterone, spilled beer, regret
- Wicked fun
- You’ll get in trouble if you throw food and knives
- Weird drunk mailman angel
- one of the smaller tents
- better smelling Löwenbräu partner tent
- best energy!
Have you ever consumed a ton of beer on an empty stomach? OK, fine, keep your secrets. Either way, it’s not pretty. The thing about Oktoberfest – well – it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Keep yourself fed on half chickens and those puffy German dumplings that fill my culinary dreams.
Last year, the first recorded “beer corpse” was reported just two hours after the initial Oktoberfest beer keg was tapped. So lame. Try not to visit the Red Cross hangover tent this time, it’s not where the popular kids hang out.
DON’T half-ass your chugging.
Picture this: one of the 10,000 revelers stands on his table. He has a full liter of beer in his hand and a clouded sense of judgement. He begins to chug. The crowd goes wild, urging him on. This can go one of two ways.
Finish your beer and you become an Oktoberfest hero! Don’t finish and 10,000 people throw food at you. This is a perfect example of “go big or go home.” Don’t get up there unless you intend to finish that beer or have already lost your wallet with your food money inside.
DON’T be a douchebag chugger.
If you do choose to participate in this ages old tradition, get up there with a FULL LITER. Countless times we saw some Oktoberfest zeros attempt this with half a liter or less. You will get booed and publicly made to feel inadequate. You aren’t fooling anyone, Grandpa!
DO snort the white powder.
I’m not pushing drugs here, I swear. I will admit I was a little confused at first when I saw the white powder being passed around and no one thinking twice about snorting it right there at the table. I’m like, for sure I’m getting arrested today. My fears were cast aside when I saw the official pretzel girls hawking tiny jars of the stuff. There’s no way this shit is legal here, right? Please explain!
I’m talking about wies’nkoks. I guess that’s the made-up German word for “Oktoberfest Coke.” I know, I’m not really selling my point here about not being a drug pusher. Turns out, it’s simply a mix of menthol and sucrose whose purpose is to rejuvenate you in the most refreshing way possible after hours of drinking and eating weiner schnitzel and spaetzle.
Maybe I’m crazy, but I went for it. This was the only time I have ever snorted anything with the only exception being every single time I’m in the pool. It actually was quite delightful. Sweet, cool (the menthol kind), airways cleared, naturally stimulated.
Now, I’m not saying to snort any white powder that comes your way. I would not have tried this if it wasn’t purchased directly from the tent’s employees and poured for me across my own arm. Snort wisely, folks.
Do learn the lingo.
There’s just a couple I recommend learning but you will repeat these 5,000 times per day you are at Oktoberfest:
The German equivalent of “cheers!” If you don’t shout this every five minutes while slamming glasses with your neighbor, something horrible will happen. I don’t know what, but I’m almost sure of it.
The staple of Oktoberfest music – If you don’t sing this every 10 minutes while the band plays it, something horrible will happen. Or something is wrong with you because it is the best, most festive song ever known to man. And it ends with slamming your beers with your neighbor’s and more shouting. Prost!
DON’T forget to look around.
They (the beer gods) put a lot into this festival so don’t forget to look around you and appreciate their hard work. (Setup actually beings in July – so about the time you’ve recovered from last Oktoberfest.) In the Hofbräu tent you will meet Aloisius, the weird mustached angel hanging from the ceiling with the harp. I discussed the story of Aloisius here and it is a MUST READ. Still don’t quite get the feet…
Outside the Löwenbräu tent is a massive lion who, every few minutes, lifts his stein, takes a drink and… burps? growls? We had to listen a few times trying to determine if the sound he made was a belch or a lion’s roar. Tell me what you think it is…
On the outside of the Spaten tent you will find a group of wooden people roasting a ginormous chicken. The physical manifestation of “How much have I had to drink?” That was our group’s meeting point should we get separated. You can choose your own.
Make friends while you’re there. At the table next to you, on the street, after they walk by and steal your food, anywhere! People come from all over the world to attend Oktoberfest and everyone there is having the best day of their life. Share your enthusiasm!
DON’T forget to explore the park!
Oktoberfest isn’t just marathon beer drinking and food throwing. It’s a full-on amusement park with rides, games, and crepes. I’m just hoping the rides are ridden before the drinks are drunk. However, as you can see above, I prefer to drink beer and then shoot guns. Say what you want, I still hit 10/10 targets and won myself some prizes. BOOM.
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