September 08, 2023
Time to dust off your dirndls and lederhosen: Oktoberfest is almost here.
The annual festival is traditionally held in late September in Munich, Germany, where millions of tourists flock to drink liters of beer, eat pretzels the size of their faces and dance to music from brass bands. But thanks to German-Americans and Americans who just love German beer, the fall festivities are now a staple of many U.S. cities.
Philadelphia is one of them. As in years past, German restaurants and bars around town will break out their biggest beer steins and best bratwurst to mark the occasion. The parties start next week, continuing into early October. Here's where to find the best fests, including one at the Philadelphia Zoo (please don't feed the animals beer):
Brauhaus Schmitz will shut down the 700 block of South Street yet again on Sept. 16 for its 15th annual Oktoberfest, billed as the largest in the Philly area. Grab a beer and a spot under the massive tents as the oom-pah bands play, or test your strength in the liter lift competition. Beer is purchased through tokens, available for purchase at tables along the block.
For the first time in five years, Oktoberfest is back at the Philadelphia Zoo. Raise a stein with penguins and pumas on Saturday, Sept. 16, when the zoo offers unlimited samples of more than 100 craft beers and ciders from 7-10 p.m. The evening also features numerous food trucks and music from Philly's leading polka band, Polkadelphia. Tickets start at $75.
Get jingoistic at Human Robot's annual Oktoberfest party, which pits 12 brews from the U.S. against 12 of Germany's best. Sample them all from 12-5 p.m. on Sept. 16 along the 1700 block of Germantown Avenue, right by Human Robot's brewery in Kensington. Other entertainment includes polka and metal music, a yodeling contest and the Milk Tube Race, in which contestants chug a tall glass of beer foam.
Head to Fishtown on Saturday, Sept. 23, for a full day of festivities at Frankford Hall, 1210 Frankford Ave., From noon 'til 8 p.m., the biergarten will have four beer trucks parked outside serving 16-ounce and 1-liter pours of several German beers, which will also be available inside, where the party continues to 2 a.m. Pretzels, sausage and "Bavarian cheesesteaks" will be on hand to soak up the suds, while balloon animals and face painting will be available in the afternoon for kids.
Welcome autumn to Ardmore at this second annual festival celebrating the season. Neighborhood vendors will serve up Oktoberfest cuisine, like bratwurst, sauerkraut and pierogies, while Tired Hands and Iron Hill pour beers at Schauffele Plaza, at Lancaster and Cricket avenues, on Sept. 30. Items are pay-as-you-go, but admission is free. Stop by between 2-6 p.m. and bring the kids — Lulu's Casita is rolling out its party bus for the little ones.
Cruise along Ridge Avenue on Oct. 7 for beer, food and a ton of fall activities. Roxborough's 11th annual Oktoberfest celebration will stretch from Lyceum to Leverington avenues, where circus performers and craft vendors will show off their skills. Galena Brass Oktoberfest Band will perform on the main stage, but so will karate and dance students from local schools. Those dressed in their German best — including dogs in dirndls — could win the costume contest at Pocket Park.
Politicians and Grace Kelly's ballet teacher once inhabited Overbrook's historic Ivy Hall, at 6331 Lancaster Ave., but on Oct. 7, it'll be full of Oktoberfest revelers. The International Institute for Culture will host its 20th annual celebration at the mansion that Saturday, come rain or shine. A $40 ticket gets you all the beer, music and snacks, plus a piece of the pig roast.
The 23rd Street Armory, 22 S. 23rd St. in Center City, will transform into an authentic Munich festival tent on Oct. 13-14, as Brauhaus Schmitz decks the space out with benches and blue-and-white bunting. The event takes place over three sessions on Friday night, Saturday afternoon and Saturday night. A $25 general admission ticket gets you entry and a liter of beer, while VIP tiers include reserved seating, food and VIP access to bathrooms.