10 Inexpensive Ways to Celebrate Oktoberfest

OCTOBER'S MORE THAN HALLOWEEN

Oktoberfest is a celebration of more than just beer drinking -- it encompasses rural German culture and harvest traditions, as well. The 16-day festival begins Sept. 19. Can't afford to fly to Europe? There's nothing expensive about holding an event at home. For those looking to make Oktoberfest a night out, many restaurants and bars offer all-inclusive entertainment and unlimited beer with the price of entry. Here are 10 low-cost activities for Oktoberfest revelers.

SERVE SAUSAGE AND SAUERKRAUT

One icon of German culture is a big plate of tasty sausages and tangy kraut. Sauerkraut has a strong flavor and costs little, making it an excellent side dish for large groups. German-style sausage, such as bratwurst, is available in most grocery stores nationwide. The links can be served whole or cut up, including as a shared appetizer.

DO A MUSTARD TASTING

Mustard, as a spicy and flavorful counterpoint to rich sausages, is a central element of the Bavarian diet. Aside from its addicting piquancy, mustard is inexpensive, and a little goes a long way -- which means a few jars is plenty for a large party to taste its way through different styles, such as whole grain, sweet, and hot.

SING GERMAN DRINKING SONGS

It's hard to imagine a more joyful scene than steins swinging to a heartily bellowed German drinking song. These classics are a way for crowds to connect with one another while enjoying beer. Prepare for an Oktoberfest celebration by brushing up on traditional songs and printing lyric sheets for guests.

MAKE PRETZELS

A few simple, low-cost ingredients come together to make this soft, chewy, and tender bread, which can be topped with classic coarse salt, dipped in mustard, or served as the canvas for toppings such as ham and cheese.

DRINK A STEIN OR TWO

The festival traditionally includes beer guzzled from gigantic frosty mugs. The classic German drinking vessels come in different shapes, sizes, and decorative themes. Their large size encourages fast drinking to ensure beer stays cold. In a pinch, any oversize mug can double as an Oktoberfest stein.
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PLAY GERMAN MUSIC

Music is always part of Oktoberfest, whether chart toppers blasting through speakers or a large brass band under a tent. Keep the feel of your celebration authentic by finding brassy polka music to play throughout the celebration, ideally peppered with the occasional drinking song.

DANCE THE POLKA

Dancing is another joyful tradition of Oktoberfest, and helps burn off calories from beer and brats. The typical dance, the polka, is a rowdy hop-step that's easy to learn.

PARTY OUTSIDE

Being surrounded by nature is an essential element to this harvest-time festival. In early autumn the chill in the air complements the oversize beers and dancing, so a smaller Oktoberfest is well suited to a late-season backyard or rooftop celebration.

DRESS UP

It's still common for Germans of all ages to don traditional outfits during Oktoberfest, but much of that attire can be recreated by using what's in the closet. Women wear dirndls, which can be recreated with a simple apron and white shirt under a short dress. Men wear lederhosen, which are basically suspendered shorts.

ATTEND A FESTIVAL

If going out sounds like more fun than throwing a party, many large cities hold Oktoberfest events that include music, ambiance, food, and beer. Check local listings for events such as the Munich On The East River in New York City, or the celebration at Saint Alphonsus in Chicago. Many local newspapers, such as the Los Angeles Times, feature guides to the best celebrations around town.The event often costs as little as $20 for a night of food, drink, music, and sometimes even a commemorative ceramic stein.