Ah, Oktoberfest. Just the sound of it causes this German girl’s little heart to beat in time with the chicken dance!
I often tell people that Oktoberfest is like a religion in my family. I grew up attending the annual Mt. Angel Oktoberfest every year, complete with traditional Trachten (costumes) and tanzen (dancing) polkas, schottische, and waltzes before it was cool to do so. As a young Mädchen (girl) I was so obsessed with my Deutsche heritage, I took two years of German language in high school and two more in college. And while I still have yet to visit the Rhineland in person, I am fluent in the language.
Flash forward to today, it is really important for me as a Mütter (mother) to expose my kids to something I love so much. Short of taking our family of five on an expensive Bavarian holiday, we do Oktoberfest annually, and I have come to know the pros and cons of every one within an hour of Portland.
So here is my insider’s guide to the best PDX Oktoberfest celebrations, all rated by Essen (food), Bier (beer), Kinderspass (children’s fun), Tanzen (dancing), and Authentische (traditional German culture). And, yes, my girls and I wear Dirndls and my boy and husband wear Lederhosen to ALL of them!
Mt. Angel (September 13-16, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.)
2018 marks Mt. Angel‘s 53rd year, indisputably making it the largest and longest-running Ofest in Oregon. (And my totally unbiased favorite!)
Essen: In addition to the food offered in the Festhallen (festival tents), Mt. Angel shuts down several downtown streets just for locally-run food and craft booths. This year 52 booths will serve up delicious German-inspired and other festival fare.
Bier: Five different entertainment venues offer a wide range (50+) of different beer, cider, and wine options.
Kinderspass: The Kindergarten features a petting zoo, magic shows, pony rides, facepainting, bouncy houses, and more all for FREE. Family-friendly entertainment is also offered all day at the bandstand in the center of town.
Tanzen: All five music and entertainment venues have dance floors with a line-up of traditional German folk, “oom-pah,” and accordion bands playing back-to-back each day. Friday and Saturday evenings the bandstand hosts a street dance with contests and prizes.
Newberg (September 14-15, 12-10 p.m.)
Fusing old world German tradition and Pacific NW style, the Newberg Early Birds Rotary Club hosts this Oktoberfest.
Essen: A variety of bratwurst and potato pancakes, but also other American/festival style foods available.
Bier: Sample craft beer from local brewers and a selection of wine. Under 21 allowed with an adult.
Kinderspass: Lederhosen contest, wooden craft building with the “Saw Dust Guys,” water balloon toss, and Kindergarten featuring face painting, and more.
Tanzen: Live music and entertainment plays popular tunes as well as several German-inspired “oom-pah” and accordion bands.
Authentische: I give it a 8 for modern Bavarian charm and tons of fun events.
Oaks Park (September 21-23, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.)
Children welcome all hours all days at this long-running Portland Oktoberfest, but it’s the only Ofest that charges entry fees for the entire event.
Essen: A huge assortment of traditional, German food is offered by a variety of vendors.
Bier: For the first time ever, Oaks Park has brought on a beer distributor this year, upping their selection from only Paulaner to five varying craft beers, one cider, and three wines.
Kinderspass: The Kinderplaz (children’s space) offers afternoon activities on Saturday and Sunday and lots of other family-friendly events throughout the festival.
Tanzen: With three stages, the line up of fun, German-themed bands to dance along with is extensive, and kids are allowed in the Festhallen until 11 p.m.
Authentische: I give this one a 7 for a great selection of bands and food.
German American Society (September 22, 2-10 p.m.)
This annual Oktoberfest in NE Portland is put on by a local nonprofit aiming to keep German culture, arts, and language alive. It is small, but FREE. Located on the corner of 57th and N.E. Sandy Blvd.
Essen: Traditional brats, pretzels, and strudel available for purchase.
Bier: Beer and wine garden onsite for 21+
Kinderspass: Children’s game area and authentic German merchandise for sale.
Tanzen: German music, entertainment, and dancing.
Authentische: They get a 6 for authenticity and effort.
The Oregon Zoo (September 26, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.)
Free with zoo admission (plus parking fees), this animal twist on the Bavarian festival is a great way to ease into the Oktoberfest tradition! More info available on the Zoo website.
Essen: German-inspired fare including Bavarian pretzels, bier bratwurst and cheddarwurst, along with some of Portland’s favorite food carts.
Bier: Local breweries will be on-site offering tastings for 21+
Kinderspass: Typical zoo festivities, lawn games and crafts for kids, plus Wildlife Live! meet and greets at noon and 3 p.m., and elephant pool party at 2 p.m.
Tanzen: Dance to live music from the European Take-Out Band from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and the Michael Fischer Trio, 1:30 to 4 p.m.
Authentische: I give it a 4 for effort and family-friendliness, but needs some more traditional culture.
Widmer Brothers / Pioneer Courthouse Square (September 29, 12-4 p.m.)
Free admission until 4 p.m. at Widmer’s 14th Annual Oktoberfest.
Kinderspass: No Kindergarten, but will have face-painting, pretzel necklace building, Classy Camelids Llama and Alpaca (in German attire) and a photobooth.
Tanzen: No mention of dancing, but will have musical guests, Those Darn Accordions, until 4 p.m.
Essen: No food listings at this time.
Bier: Widmer brews for 21+
Authentische: Honestly, I’ve never been, but based on their info, I’m giving it only a 2 for lack of beer diversity and traditional culture.
Looking for something a little less intense? We are lucky to have some great breweries and restaurants offering kleine (mini) Oktoberfests in their own establishments. All listed below are kid-friendly with German(ish) Essen, Bier, live music, and maybe if you’re lucky some tanzen. Bitte (you’re welcome).
Stammtisch Oktoberfest Street Party (September 21-23)
Live music, games, and German BBQ. All the deets here.
Occidental (September 22)
Occidental’s annual event, featuring biergarten, live music, and German-themed food from Urban German Grill.
Prost! (September 28-29)
Giant biergarten, German food, and live music. Very limited info on their website, but minors are allowed daily in the brewery until 8 p.m., so here’s hoping!
It wouldn’t be a beer event without including the McMenamins properties. Bring the whole family to celebrate at the following dates/locations with beer specials, live music, and bratwurst:
- September 22: Hotel Oregon, Old St. Francis School, Kalama Harbor
- September 29: Mill Creek, Anderson School, Kennedy School
- September 30: Edgefield
- October 6: The Grand Lodge