The origins and fun of Oktoberfest

Ein Prosit, ein Prosit, Der Gemütlichkeit.

(Ark-La-Tex Weekend) - It’s one of the world’s largest public fairs and one of the most well known: Oktoberfest. The people of Munich, Germany have celebrated locally made beer in large and small tents on the grounds known as Theresienwise (better known now as the Wisen). It all started in October 1810 to celebrate the marriage of Prince Regent Ludiwg of Bavaria and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen with an impressive horse race. There were no beer gardens at the beginning. They started to set up shops and tents in 1887. Over time, the party transformed into the beer and food loving festival that stands today.

Oktoberfest usually lasts sixteen days that being in mid-September through the first weekend of October. On the first day, the mayor of Munich opens the festival by tapping the first beer barrel. Over 7,000,000 people pass through the gates every year. It’s free admission to the Wisen.

Only six Munich breweries are allowed to serve the beer even though there are 20 small tents and 14 big tents. Each tent has its own design and their own quirks and cuisine. Feast on traditional Bavarian food from roasted chicken to ox to sausages.

Outside of the beer tents and beer gardens is a carnival midway with lots of rides. There’s even a section of the park dedicated to the Olde Wisen where you can see how Oktoberfest was like back decades ago. There is an entry fee for this part of the festival.

If you’re thinking about a trip to Munich for a future Oktoberfest, here are a few tips and tricks.

Don’t expect to park close to the Wisen. There’s almost no parking available around the park. Public transportation is the best option.

Use cash at the festival. Many travel sites recommend bringing plenty of Euros. 12-13 Euros is about the standard price for a liter of beer. Full meals in the tents run between 12-20 Euros. Save some money and eat at the food booths outside the tents. Save a bit more and eat outside the grounds.

You can book a table reservation for one of the tents, but its not necessary. Note that tables seat eight to ten people. No ‘table for two.’ If you’re going to make a reservation, do so near the beginning of the year. Each tent has its own policy and timing for reservations. 25%-35% of the tables in tents are not reservable.

Much like state and county fairs here, the best times to visit is during the weekday. Lunch prices are usually less than dinner prices and the crowds are a lot thinner. People start arriving en masse in the late afternoon.

Hotels often book up about a year in advance. Of course the closer the hotel is to Oktoberfest, the more expensive it will be. A tip is to find a hotel near the mass transit line. See if the hotel has a package deal with the festival.

You don’t have to know the German language inside and out. It’s helpful to know a few phrases. However many tents and their staff do know a little bit of English and have some menus in English.

It’s going to be loud in the tents and on the fairgrounds.

The beer is notoriously strong. Pace yourself and stay hydrated throughout your experience.

Don’t go to the fair and ride the rides after a day of drinking.

Know this German song. It’s sung in pretty much every tent. Ein Prosit, ein Prosit, Der Gemütlichkeit. It means A toast, a toast, To cheer and good times.

Can’t get to Germany? You can always enjoy Shreveport Brew.

Robert Streeter

Robert Streeter

Lead content producer for the Ark-La-Tex Weekend as well as Creative Services Producer.