Thanks to a thriving craft beer movement, “beercations” are on the rise—especially in California. A recent survey from the folks at Visit Anaheim found that 7 in 10 beer enthusiasts have planned an entire trip around tasting brews. Their favorite destinations? Not surprisingly, 47 percent say Germany, but next up was California at 41 percent with Belgium finishing third with 24 percent.
Anaheim has a serious beer scene all its own, a tradition that dates back to 1870. “Our tight-knit community of brewers are gaining national attention, building Orange County’s reputation as a center of innovative craft brewing,” says Charles Harris, Visit Anaheim’s senior vice president of marketing. But, he adds, “you don’t have to be a cicerone to appreciate the perfect pint in Anaheim.”
Anaheim’s local Oktoberfest features beer, music, and food and is being held every weekend through October 27 at the Phoenix Club and its Bierstube restaurant. Here are 13 more Oktoberfest celebrations worth a visit, many featuring local brews.
Now through Nov. 2: Oktoberfest Big Bear
First launched by a pair of German immigrants in Big Bear Lake in 1969, this series of weekend parties in the San Bernardino Mountains is one of the biggest German festivals on the West Coast. Festivities include live music and dancing, as well as log-sawing and beer-stein-holding contests.
Now through October 27: Lake Arrowhead Village Oktoberfest
The San Bernardino Mountains, which surround the Inland Empire town of Temecula, make an idyllic setting for lots of beer, sausages, pretzels, and traditional German music—along with yodeling and beer-stein-holding contests.
Sept. 27–28: Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest
The acclaimed Butte County–based brewery hosts its own party of beer, food, and music spanning two weekends, featuring a brew made in collaboration with Germany’s two-century-old Bitburger Brewery. As of press time, the second weekend (Oct. 3-4) was already sold out.
Oct. 5: Oroville’s Inaugural Oktoberfest
German sausage, pretzels, and other goodies pair well with local beer at this Butte County Oktoberfest located in Oroville’s Union Square. Proceeds from your ticket and any extra beer and pretzels purchases benefit the Feather River Center, which promotes outdoor education and recreation (like the great local rowing). Show up wearing lederhosen and you’ll get a free gift, too.
Oct. 5, 12, 19, 26: Wurstküche Restaurant Oktoberfest, Venice
This German restaurant, which also has a Downtown L.A. location, boasts of being “a purveyor of exotic grilled sausage,” and indeed its regular menu spans from brats and mango-jalapeño links to sausage made with rattlesnake, buffalo, pheasant, and more. But its four weekends of Oktoberfest fun at the Venice branch is pretty traditional, with yodeling, stein-holding contests, and a band called the Music Boom-Steiners.
Oct. 4–27: Alpine Village Oktoberfest, Torrance
The L.A. County town of Torrance has a cutting-edge craft beer scene, but this Bavarian outpost plays it old school each year, with festival-style seating, German cuisine, lots of HofBrau and other German beers, and a band called Haderlumpen.
Oct 5–6: Camp Richardson’s Oktoberfest, South Lake Tahoe
This is the 24th year for this Oktoberfest at the historic Camp Richardson compound on Lake Tahoe, which first opened in the 1920s. The weekend activities in South Lake Tahoe include lots of beer and authentic cuisine, live music, a climbing wall, pumpkin patch, and a bungee platform.
Oct. 11–12: OB Oktoberfest, San Diego
German culture fits in just fine in Ocean Beach, one of San Diego’s quintessential surfer communities. Enjoy the beer garden, featuring nine local San Diego beers, listen to music from the beachside stage, or take part in the stein-holding, bratwurst-eating, or balloon-blowing contests.
Oct. 12: Craftoberfest at the Rose Bowl, Pasadena
Here’s a great excuse to explore the Greens at the Rose Bowl on a non-game day: this one-day "Volksfest” features food, international beers, and more than 20 Southern California craft breweries, including Three Weavers, Craftsman, and El Segundo.
Oct. 12: 13th Annual Cotati Oktoberfest, Sonoma County
The same Sonoma County town that hosts its own accordion festival in summer the also hosts a great Oktoberfest. Its fall party includes German-style food, beers, wiener-dog racing, yodeling, stein holding, costume contests, and live music by The Alpiners.
Oct. 18–19: Santa Clarita Oktoberfest, Valencia
This L.A. County festival bills itself as Munich-in-the-Santa Clarita Valley and is held in the “Crystal Palace Flemish Spielgeltent” (read: a big cool tent) at the local Wolf Creek Brewery. They’ll be pouring German and German-style beers paired with German foods, and there will be games and other activities. Get a VIP ticket and you get perks like the official glass beer stein, access to special seating, and a German cuisine buffet.
Oct. 19: Walnut Creek Oktoberfest
The Contra Costa county town hosts this free-admission Oktoberfest at its Civic Park, with live music and dancing, gourmet food vendors, and dozens of craft beers and wine, along with a lederhosen competition. Kids are welcome too and will be entertained by crafts, a climbing wall, and pig races.
The Palm Springs area is rarely confused with Bavaria in terms of terrain, but this Oktoberfest at the La Quinta Brewing Company easily compensates with its German-style beers brewed specially for this event. There will also be plenty of German cuisine, games, and live music from the Bavarian band Hazelnuss.