Oktoberfest in New York begins officially this weekend with the annual Steuben Day Parade, celebrating all things German, including music, food and beer.
Here are our top choices for enjoying Oktoberfest on the Hudson, the East River and also inland, some with rowdy crowds and oompah bands, others more quietly. Reservations are recommended, especially weekends.
Make mine a hefeweizen.
Let’s start with the 61st annual Steuben Day Parade on Saturday, Sept. 15th, with marchers and floats from all over the United States, Germany, Austria and Switzerland, including music and dance groups, the groups in colorful Karneval costumes and historic Tracht. The parade celebrates more than three centuries of German-American friendship.
The Steuben Day Parade is on Fifth Avenue, from 65th to 86th Streets, Noon to 3pm. You can watch for FREE, or purchase a Grand Stand ticket for $15.
Oktoberfest in Central Park – Following the parade, head over to the party in the park, exclusively serving German brews and food. Enjoy a pitcher or two, a bratwurst and great entertainment featuring “Heimat Klänge” and “The Polka Brothers” along with other bands, as well as the 10th annual National Masskrugstemmen Championship sponsored by Hofbrau Bier. This is a ticketed vent. General admission is $35, including service fee, from the Steuben Day Parade organizers
Location: Rumsey Playfield – Summer Stage -Enter Central Park at East 72nd Street, 1:30pm to 7:30pm
This restaurant is named for the part of Germany owners Ayana and Tobias Holler are from, and normally serves local, Black Forest beer and homemade dishes, including what I think is the best Black Forest Cake on the planet. But they change the routine and the menu for Oktobertest.
Black Forest celebrates Oktoberfest for a full month, from Saturday 9/22 until Sunday 10/14 at both locations, featuring decorations, a specially curated Oktoberfest playlist, and a Dirndl and Lederhosen selfie contest with prizes. There also are six special events, featuring Spanferkel pig roasts in the new just-opened Smith Street backyard biergarten, mug-holding competitions with prizes, and live brass bands, including a Brooklyn-based Balkan brass funk band. Try saying that five times fast after a couple of beers.
There are more than a dozen German beers. Top beer choice would be Rothaus Tannenzapfle, easier to drink than pronounce, a tangy unpasteurized pilsner from the Black Forest.
- Black Forest Brooklyn is at 733 Fulton St., between S. Elliott Place and S. Portland Ave. and at 181 Smith St.
This popular Lower East Side spot celebrates its 14th annual Oktoberfest for 45 days, from mid-September through Halloween, ending with a Haunted Happy Hour after 10pm. There are different beers and food items featured daily, or weekly, in the outdoor heated garden, including FREE keg tapping parties, FREE pig roasts, happy hour beer and sausage specials and more. Oktoberfest launches on Saturday, Sept. 22 the ceremonial keg tapping of Munich’s Hofbrau Oktoberfest beer at 1pm, and the free pig roast at 3pm.
There also are craft beer evenings and weekends and the annual Sausage Fest, with a choice of a dozen sausages. Make mine weisswurst, the traditional Bavarian veal sausage served with a sweet mustard and a giant soft pretzel. See the daily schedule here.
- Loreley Restaurant & Biergarden is at 7 Rivington St. on the Lower East Side
Likely the largest and loudest Oktoberfest celebration in NYC, Zum Schneider sets up a huge tent on the East River at 23rd St. for this annual party. Original Oktoberfest beers on tap include: HB Traunstein Festbier, Andechs Festbier(both Zum Schneider exclusives in NYC) and Weihenstephaner Festbier, served in authentic Masskrügen, thick one-liter glass Steins, and such traditonal Oktoberfest menu items as Wiesn-Hendl and Haxn (Oktoberfest roast chicken & pork shank), giant pretzels, Bratwurst and Weisswurst.
There’s live music with Mösl Franzi & the JaJaJa’s plus special guests playing a variety of traditional Oompah music and Wiesn hits (modern hit songs and singalongs). The tent is open Noon to 8pm on weekends, and 5pm to 10pm weekdays, Wednesday, Sept. 28th through Sunday, Oct. 8th,
Reservations are absolutely required. Prices are the same as last year – general admission is $28, reserved seating is $38, plus food and drink. Admission is FREE after 10pm, after the kitchen closes.
This food hall at the South Street Seaport is celebrating Oktoberfest with live music, full Oktoberfest decoration and fun games for the entire family. For this celebration, they are serving Hofbrau, Radeberger and Westphalen beers. Admission is FREE, and there are plenty of food vendors to choose from, although you may not find any authentic German choices.
There are food and drink packages starting at $50. The views of the Brooklyn and Williamsburg bridges and Brooklyn skyline are free.
- Watermark is at Pier 15 at the South Street Seaport.
This huge German-style beer hall has male/female mug holding competitions, ceremonial keg tapping, a pig roast, two live bands and a DJ every Saturday during Oktoberfest, starting Sept. 22nd. It opens at 11am, with more than a dozen beers on tap from Germany, Belgium and Czechoslovakia, including Hofbrau, Radeburger, Urquell and the totally obscure Braufactum Progusta. There’s a long list of sausages, including Weisswurst, Bratwurst and Berlin’s favorite Currywurst, plus a concoction of classic spaetzle (German noodles) with fava beans, peas and chili. Excuse me while I gag.
- Radegast Hall is at 113 North 3rd St., Williamsburg.
The Hester Street Fair has a different theme each weekend. A day of German beer and food. FREE, 11am to 6pm, Saturday, Oct. 6th. Hester St. at Essex Street
It’s not exactly Oktoberfest, but it is all about the most important ingredient of Oktoberfest. For the third year in a row, this weekend event showcases some of NYC’s best craft brews along with primo views of the midtown Manhattan skyline, as you taste samples from every Queens-based brewery, plus hand-picked extras from Brooklyn, The Bronx and Staten Island.
This is a ticketed event at the LIC Flea & Food, which is free on weekend with more than 80 food, drink, antiques and craft vendors, featuring art, furniture, fashion, jewelry and more for sale.
- Discount admission is $29 Saturday or Sunday, Oct. 13 or 14.
This Astoria fixture with a huge outdoor biergarden normally celebrates Oktoberfest for three weekends, including a traditional pig roast. But there’s nothing on their website about Oktoberfest 2018, so we have downgraded them to the bottom of the list. Even so, you can be assured of great beer and great food on the regular menu, with German-style chicken or pork schnitzel and sauerkraut, plus such East European favorites as pierogies. Admission is free.
- Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden is at 29-19 24th Ave, Astoria, Queens.
My mother’s family is from Munich, a city I visit often, along with the rest of Bavaria and nearby Baden-Wurtenburg, including for Oktoberfest, and I claim to know and certainly appreciate good German beer and food.
I’ve also attended the Canstatter Volkfest in Stuttgart, that city’s version of Munich’s Oktoberfest. Prosit.