Cooler evenings and hints of color in the trees mean one thing for beer lovers and Germanophiles: Oktoberfest. There’s no need to hop a plane to Munich. Colorado offers dozens of celebrations in the fall, but you don’t need to constrain your German cultural forays only to the festivals. Though Colorado may not immediately come to mind as a hub of Teutonic language and culture, there are many ways to get in touch with your inner (or aspirational) Deutsche. Here’s our guide to highlights of the Oktoberfest season, here in Colorado Springs and statewide — plus local options to keep the German spirit alive year-round.
Local Oktoberfest Festivals
Colorado Springs Pawtoberfest
Bear Creek Regional Park
Drink local craft brews (plus spirits!) AND help raise money for the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region? We’ll woof to that. Furry friends welcome.
Colorado Springs Oktoberfest
Western Museum of Mining and Industry
From its new northern location this year at the Western Museum of Mining and Industry, our largest local Oktoberfest will not only feature four different traditional German beers from Warsteiner, but also a “German Vineyards” wine-tasting option and German-themed cocktails. You can tap your toes to the horns of the UTurn Brass Band and to dancing led by the Denver Kickers’ Schuhplattler group and their authentic Bavarian folk dance.
Oktoberfest Around the Region
Expect some fall color to make an appearance in one of Colorado’s largest Oktoberfests. More than three-dozen genuine German cuisine and brew vendors line Main Street, with German-themed games including Hammerschlagen—a curiously conceived game that pairs throwing hammers and drinking beers. Don’t tell your mother.
September 7-9, Lionshead
September 14-16, Vail Village
Expanding into two weekends, the Vail Oktoberfests will offer bratwurst eating contests, keg bowling (make sure to sign up early as entries fill), yodeling and alpenhorn blowing. Spaten beer, one of the six official breweries allowed to serve during festivities in Munich, will be flowing. And festivalgoers can enter a costume contest, join family activities and dance to live music.
Sept. 8 – Oct. 21
Royal Gorge Railroad
A moving Oktoberfest by train car! All aboard the Royal Gorge Railroad for a narrow-gauge beer adventure on the Oktoberfest Train. As you ride through the canyons, enjoy lunch paired with locally brewed beer—including a limited edition Oktoberfest bier—with musical accompaniment provided by Barry, the roving Royal Gorge Oktoberfest accordionist.
O’Brien Park, Downtown Parker
Head north to Parker, which is spicing up the traditional beer celebration with a few unique offerings. The Grimm Brothers’ Fairytale actors will perform throughout the weekend, and you can experience DJ dance parties Friday and Saturday night with German music mixed with electronic beats.
Woodland Park Rocky Mountain OktoberfestPlus
Ute Pass Cultural Center
Head up Highway 24 to enjoy a weekend of traditional German beer and brat offerings, but with a Rocky Mountain twist: a climbing wall and country music.
Sept. 21-23 and Sept. 28-30
20th and Larimer
Now in it’s 49th year, the Denver Oktoberfest is one of the country’s longest-running. And since nothing goes better with beer than weiners, come on Sept 28 for the fest’s annual Long Dog Derby for full and half-breed dachshunds. Music, stein-hoisting contests and keg bowling with 350,000 of your fellow beer-loving friends.
Castle Rock Oktoberfest
Wilcox Square, Downtown Castle Rock
Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the Castle Rock festival is anchored by the libations of local Rockyard Brewing, but adds nearly a dozen other local and regional craft brewers to the mix. Catch the free trolley shuttle service, so you can focus on your sampling.
All Year Round
One Wednesday night a month, year-round, a long table fills the Ratskeller basement bar of the traditional, family-owned Edelweiss restaurant in the Ivywild neighborhood. The boisterous crowd of German speakers exchanges banter over carefully-selected German beers. The monthly Stammtisch conversational group gathering usually sees more than 20 German speakers, some of whom drive an hour to be here.
Edelweiss has been a visible hub of authentic German atmosphere in the Springs for over nearly 50 years, helmed by Helga Schnakenberg (originally from Heidelberg), her husband, Gary and their son Dieter. The Alpine chalet feels like a slice of home to many expats and German heritage seekers in town.
“Over the last 35 years, my parents have fine-tuned every detail of this restaurant, bit by bit,” Dieter says. “Each room has a different theme or feel to it, with German decor and details they’ve really lovingly woven into everything. Even the mailbox out front was brought over in a suitcase.”
While Edelweiss doesn’t do an Oktoberfest at the traditional time, they have been known to put together a Summerfest full of traditional German beers, music and food. But, hey, they’re pros who do that every day of the year. Anytime you stop in, you’ll find all German beers on tap, imported from 100-year-old breweries, and strolling German musicians with accordions serenade you on Friday and Saturday nights.
Wimberger’s Old World Bakery & Delicatessan
On the west side of town, Wimberger’s Old World Bakery & Delicatessan was also founded by a German expatriate around the same time as Edelweiss, and holds the torch of a real German rye bread, along with dozen of other baked delights. It’s also a fine place to spend a Saturday morning hearing snippets of German conversation over your coffee, and you can also pick up some imported regional delicacies.
Colorado College German Program
For an intellectual boost, Colorado College’s German department frequently organizes films, an annual German language play and a variety of other events that may be open to the public. Find them listed on the campus events calendar to help you brush up on the language before the high holy Oktoberfest season begins.