German immigrants make up the single largest ethnic gathering in the United States. From the Pacific Northwest to the deep South, the best towns are ready and waiting for you to celebrate Oktoberfest and Christmas this year—German style.
This charming, Bavarian village was created in 1969 as a marketing campaign to beautify the fading town and to attract tourists. Located an hour and a half northeast of Atlanta, Helen offers a 7-week-long celebration, known as the longest-running Oktoberfest in the United States.
Enjoy countless parades and live music, plus plenty of polka and waltz dancing. You can also spend time shopping for cuckoo clocks, homemade fudge, quilts, and dolls, at the 200 shops located along cobblestone streets. Indulge in Appalachia-meets-Alps cuisine, featuring huge portions of smoked pork chops, corned beef, and pints of peach beer. Helen has plenty of outdoor fun too—zip lining, tubing, fly-fishing, and horseback riding.
Vail Village and Lionshead Colorado. Photo courtesy of Adventure_Photo/iStock.com
Located at the base of Vail Mountain, this picturesque town is best known for skiing, snowboarding, golfing, fishing, and hiking. The colorful shops, European architecture, and scenic landscapes will make you feel like you're in the a mountain village in Bavaria.
Stay at the Arrabelle at Vail Square, which overlooks chalets with clock towers and decorative roofs. Stroll around the pedestrian-friendly Lionshead Village, and get cozy by the fireplace with a glass of schnaps at Alpenrose Restaurant. Oktoberfest festivities in Vail take place over two weekends with live German bands, bratwurst-eating contests, and beer keg bowling.
Downtown Fredericksburg Texas. Photo courtesy of dlewis33/iStock.com
Settled by German immigrants in the 1840s, this small town is full of history, charm, and modern attractions. Learn about the first settlers of the Texas Hill Country at four iconic museums, or take a historical walking tour to learn about the unique German heritage of Fredericksburg. There are also several wineries, breweries, and restaurants serving classic German dishes, from smoked meats to bratwurst.
During Fredericksburg's Oktoberfest, the town square transforms into a bustling Bavarian village with live polka music. Attend the annual Gillespie County Bundes Schüetzenfest—an old-fashioned, German target-shooting competition. The winner is crowned the Schützenkönig—or King of Marksmen—and reigns until next year's competition.
Nashville’s oldest neighborhood, Germantown, is a named for the European immigrants who settled in the area during the mid-19th century. The community became a National Register Historic District in 1979.
Today, Germantown is filled with historic sites, charming boutiques, and local restaurants managed by award-winning chefs. Nashville hosts an annual Oktoberfest in Germantown, where you can enjoy live music, local brews, a bratwurst-eating contest, and a 5K Bier Run.
Local citizens performing dance wearing traditional bavarian attire. Photo courtesy of MayankYadav/iStock.com
With the lush Cascade Mountains as its backdrop, the town of Leavenworth in central Washington developed its German vibe as a result of a city planning initiative in the 1960s, after the logging and sawmill industries shut down.
Discover alpine chalets with flower boxes and mountain views, plus a bustling Front Street with plenty of German beer and food. Outdoor pursuits include hiking, skiing, boating, and birdwatching. Make sure to visit the quirky Nutcracker Museum, play a round of Bavarian-themed miniature golf, and enter a real-life gingerbread house.
Leavenworth's 3-weekend-long Oktoberfest showcases a lineup of popular German bands and dance. The town is also known for its annual Christmas Lighting Festival, which features holiday carolers, decorative lights, and Santa costumes from around the world.
Downtown Frankenmuth Michigan. Photo courtesy of ehrlif/iStock.com
For a beach getaway with a German twist, head to Frankenmuth, also known as "Michigan's Little Bavaria." Visit the Frankenmuth Historical Museum to learn about the area’s German roots, and see how the city was established to provide spiritual comfort to the German pioneers in the Midwest.
Take a horse-drawn carriage through town, relax and enjoy the views on a riverboat cruise, learn how to hand-roll German pretzels, and try out Bavarian blacksmithing. With German events and activities, a waterpark, and the world's largest Christmas store, Frankenmuth offers something for the whole family.