The world’s biggest beer festival has much more than beer to offer. Of course, beer is kind of the point, but if you’re not a fan, there’s still a whole lot to enjoy. My son’s kindergarten group visits every year, and they have a wonderful time.
Here are a few ideas of what to get up to besides drinking copious amounts of golden nectar:
The flea circus
A must. Touted as the world’s smallest performing artists, you and around half a dozen other spectactors can catch fleas pulling chariots, scoring goals, and jumping through rings. It’s well worth a visit – it’s one of those legendary Oktoberfest stalls, having been at the Wiesn every year since 1948.
The Oide Wiesn
My favourite area at Oktoberfest and it’s thankfully become a mainstay (it was originally intended as a one-off in 2010) – the Oide Wiesn is very family-friendly, much more laid-back than the rest of Oktoberfest. The rides are old – there’s a gorgeous century-old carousel there – and there are plenty of tractors to be seen. It’s a lovely area to wander round in, and the music in the tents can be a real joy (when you’ve had enough of Sweet Home Alabama in the other tents).
Personally, I am not a fan of the Oktoberfest’s wine tent. The clientele is not my type, but I do understand the appeal of having a place to drink wine when you’re not a beer fan. Bavarian food is served alongside food from the Palatinate (where the founder, Kuffler, stems) and you can drink sparkling wine and champers to your heart’s content.
While walking around the Wiesn, you’ll invariably come across stands selling sweet roasted almonds, gingerbread hearts and Magenbrot – something akin to gingerbread pieces that I insist on buying every year. Grab a package and head to the Bavaria steps to people-watch. For more tips on what to eat at Oktoberfest, check out my post here.
Teufelsrad (Devil’s Wheel)
Huge fun to watch – especially later in the day when everyone is tipsy – the Teufelsrad is a spinning disc on the ground. The aim? To hold on. To stay on the disc. The last (wo)man standing wins. Watch and cheer as brave (see: drunk) punters are flung off the disc as it gets faster and faster. If you speak German, the commentary provides great entertainment too.
Another great place to people-watch, the joy of the helter skelter comes with watching drunk Oktoberfest-goers stumble up the steps before clumsily sliding down on their rug. A more sedate alternative is the Rutschn, which is great fun for kids too.
Other classic rides
The swing carousel is a classic at Oktoberfest. It’s fast, but you can see just how huge the whole set-up is. For a better, more leisurely glance over the Theresienwiese, check out the ferris wheel. It’s HUGE.
For daredevils, there are rollercoasters, haunted houses, centrifugal force rides – you name it, you can ride it.
Pitt’s Todeswand is one of the most famous attractions at Oktoberfest. Motorcyclists ride a vertical wall on their motorbikes – it’s a spectacle for the whole family (if incredibly nerve-wracking).
*edited to add*
It has been brought to my attention (by writer Brian Melican) that I have missed out a true Oktoberfest institution – it’s a black humour theatre and Wirtshaus (pub) in one. It offers fantastic food – food is sourced from organic farm Herrmannsdorfer, and if you’re a meat-eater, you won’t find better food at the Wiesn. You can watch public decapitations 25 times a day (a rather gruesome joke that has been practiced since 1869), but if you don’t speak German, you’ll miss out on a lot of the other jokes.
Reserve a table here.
Even if you don’t drink beer, there is plenty to keep you entertained at Oktoberfest. Enjoy!