It may seem counterintuitive, but most Oktoberfests are actually held in September, in keeping with German tradition. The original fest in Munich was a wedding celebration that took place over five days in October 1810, hence the name. It was so much fun that it became an annual tradition, which grew in size and length. Eventually they decided it made more sense to start the event in September when the days are longer and warmer. Many Michigan events follow that same logic, although others are still set in October. Below are the best Oktoberfests in Michigan for 2023.
September 14-17 Oktoberfest in Frankenmuth
If you only make it to one, then make it the grandaddy of them all. Settled by Germans, and taking on the look and feel of the old country, this tiny hamlet is better known as Michigan’s Little Bavaria. So much so that, in 1996, Lord Mayor Christian Ude of Germany officially sanctioned the Frankenmuth Oktoberfest celebration, making it the only city outside of Munich to receive such an honor. German bands, dancers, and fare are abundant. If you go on Saturday, be sure to check out the Wiener-dog races in the Harvey Kern Community Pavilion at noon. Fifty to a hundred dachshunds are positioned on one side of the pavilion floor and let loose in the hopes that they’ll race to the other side. Will they?
September 15-16 Oktoberfest in Saline
Head to S. Arbor Street to find the Bier Garten in the heart of Downtown Saline. Admission is $10 for those 21 and over, and free for youngsters. The party really gets flowing at 6:30pm on Friday with the Tapping of the Golden Keg Opening Ceremony. Expect a great lineup of local and German brews, along with scrumptious food available for purchase. A variety of activities are planned for all ages each day. Friday evening, Local Heroes will keep the party rocking, while Saturday night is headlined by 50 Amp Fuse. All proceeds from ticket sales will support programs and events designed to bring communities together for the revitalization of Downtown Saline.
September 23-24 St. Joseph Oktoberfest in Detroit
One of the oldest churches in the state, the St. Joseph Shrine will be celebrating its 150th anniversary in November. It is a magnificent Victorian Gothic building that is currently going through an impressive renovation. This will be a great time to visit. There will be pony rides, a petting zoo, and games for the kids. Adults will enjoy the stein holding competitions, 50/50 raffle, and tours of the church. Of course, the Masses are over by the time the fest takes hold, so enjoy cold beer and scrumptious German eats. Free guarded parking with a courtesy shuttle is available at nearby Brewery Park. While in the area, don’t miss the opportunity to explore historic Eastern Market as well.
September 29-30 Oktoberfest Grand Rapids
Hosted by the Edelweiss Club, a German-American nonprofit, which is designed to celebrate German culture, this fest is fun for the whole family. Kids can participate in wacky games like Koffer Packen (packing a suitcase), Schokoladenessen (chocolate eating), and Topfschlagen (prize hunting). Adults can show off their keg toss and rolling skills, as well as stein holding endurance. German Bands and Alphorn players will be on hand, along with a load of dachshunds eager to race. Brats, wieners, schnitzel, strudel, and plenty of other food will be available, along with tasty brews and some Faygo.
September 29-30 Octoberfest in Downtown Ludington
This weekend of revelry kicks off with a Friday night pub crawl. Start out at Ludington Bay Brewing Company to grab a map and a commemorative koozie for this self-guided crawl. Then make your way along South James Street to Ludington Avenue to enjoy fun and beverages at participating Outdoor Social District establishments, where you can even take your drinks to go. Return to Ludington Bay by 9pm for prizes and live music by Michigan Mafia String Band. Tickets for the crawl are $10. Then on Saturday from 2pm-6pm, head to Legacy Plaza. A $25 Full Octoberfest Pass will get you entry and four drink tokens. There you can enjoy lawn games including corn hole, Jenga, Yahtzee, and badminton, as well as live music.
September 30 Oktoberfest on the Plaza in Port Huron
The city by the Blue Water Bridge is welcoming this as a new event this year. The festivities will be found in the plaza, just outside of McMorran Place. It features beer, food, live music, and a day full of competitions for both the young, and young at heart. There will be 3-legged races, egg and spoon races, cornhole, giant pong, Hammerschlagen (hammering nails), stein holding, stein relay, brat eating, yodeling, and a German costume contest.
September 30 Oktoberfest in Iron Mountain
This authentic Bavarian Oktoberfest features continuous entertainment, polka dancing, delicious German food, sing-alongs and more. Of course, the ever-popular stein holding competition will be part of the revelry, as will be the crowning of Ms. Oktoberfest. Those interested in the title will be judged based on three critical categories: Best Dirndl (German outfit), Beer Palate (ability to identify beers through a blind taste test), and German Pronunciation (three German words).
October 4 – Uptoberfest in Escanaba
Touted by organizers as the Upper Peninsula’s largest beer and wine festival, this fun party also raises money for good causes. Plus, we’re happy to say you’ll only find local beverages on tap for the celebration. Tickets are $50 each. Sample craft beers, wines, and meads from the region, and a few specialties from further away. Snack on complimentary culinary treats provided by Bobaloon’s Cafe, all while enjoying the exclusive soundtrack provided by local favorites ToHuBoHu. All proceeds go to local charities like the United Way of Delta county, the preservation of Ludington Park, and to support the Junior Market Livestock program at the U.P. State Fair.
October 7 – Skitoberfest at Boyne Mountain
A mountain is certainly an appropriate place to enjoy a Bavarian-style celebration. This one has some unique qualities like keg bowling, stein hoisting, pond pedaling, and even burning old skis in a bonfire. (That last one is actually an annual ritual.) The Pray for Snow Bonfire is an excellent end to a crisp fall day at Boyne. There will be a Bier Hall filled with craft brews, delicious eats, and live music. Oh, and don’t leave this one without taking in the fall colors from the Skybridge!
October 14 Oktoberfest in Douglas
Often overshadowed by its neighbor, Saugatuck, Douglas is a wonderful place to spend a day. Why not go for their fall party? Set in the aptly named Beery Field. Though all are welcome, this one highly encourages traditional German dress. The parade will line up at 11:30am. You can also look forward to Alphorns, dancing, and music by the 25-piece Ein Prosit Band.
Many breweries around the state will host their own parties on-site in keeping with the German theme. You can also always gather friends and create your own version. Oktoberfest beers are available from Bell’s and Frankenmuth Brewery, and Atwater has its Blocktober on the market now.
Don some lederhosen or a dirndl, hit the road (or your own backyard), and enjoy one or two of the best Oktoberfests in Michigan. Prost!