Entering the official Oktoberfest grounds is completely free of charge and going into the beer tents is also completely free of charge.
The entire perimeter of Oktoberfest is secure and safe for all ages. Many families attend and the drinking age for beer there is 16 but kids are welcome to sit in the tents with parents. This whole area is completely family-friendly. People inside them come from all over Germany, Austria and other parts of the world and ages range from little kids to 90! I am 55 and my friends are close in age, and many people that come from the USA might be in their 30s or 40s or 50s too.
Getting into the tents the first day of the actual Oktoberfest is tough (have done it one year already so we are gonna do it again) so it is best to get to Oktoberfest a bit after it all starts. That is, unless you already happen to have had things reserved and you have some huge German family waiting for your arrival. Going towards the end of the festival is great too but then the weather starts to change. Have done that too. Busier crowds on weekends can sometimes jam things up too, so it is also best to try and plan your trip with less weekend exposure.
For both strategic reasons and the fact most Americans will experience jet lag in the initial days of a trip to Europe, we found it is actually best to get into the tents like 9-930-10 am and then you will generally be fine and do not need a reservation. Try the Hoffbrau tent for starters. It's just what you imagine. This is the biggest one. You will see. Drink, be assertive, have the pretzels and chicken, yap with those sitting around you, and sit with anyone. They are all welcoming if you are outgoing and want to enjoy it! You do not need to know a lick of German but it can help to try. I find Germans to be among the world’s most friendly and welcoming people, especially in Bavaria. If you pace yourself and watch people and enjoy the German Oompah music, you might want to stay ‘til say 2pm or so, and then you have the whole day and night ahead of you! You could also try to stick it out and stay all night, and you will see a changeover to a more party atmosphere with those same German bands playing hits and some oldies too that everyone gets into. Like Fenway Park, they seem to all love Sweet Caroline and also, Country Road by John Denver. Who knew! Tents close around 9-10pm. There have been a few occasions we stuck it out.
There are many other tents in the giant fest so check out the link for more information. Toward the back end of the long festival grounds, The Oude Wiesn is also awesome because you get to see authentic German dance, costumes and people who seem to come from another era in there... ask when you get there. They even have the guys with the long Ricola horns! There is plenty of history on all of this so check it out before you go. The Oude Wiesn is located at the end of the fest near the Ferris wheel (which is fun to do too) and costs just 3 euros to enter. We found it accessible and fun even on a busy Sat night when the rest of the fest had been too crowded. It is the only part of the festival (besides rides you may want to do or food, beer and souvenirs you buy) that has any entry fee. Don’t steal a beer mug by the way, or there is a big fine for that. Best to just buy one for 10 or so euros! The Oude Wiesn may not happen in 2021 but more on that as we know more.
It is wonderful to sit with people from Germany and all over the world to enjoy beers and strike up conversation. It will help if you know a bit of German but it is fun either way, and here are some fun phrases and things to know:
1. “Wies’n” – If you want to fit in with the locals, DON’T just call it Oktoberfest. Instead, you go to the “Wies’n”. This is actually a nickname for the place where Oktoberfest is actually held – Theresienwiese in central Munich. (Vee-zen is how you pronounce the nickname for the fest and it means field or meadow).
2. “Servus!” – the informal Bavarian greeting, alongside the more formal “Grüß Gott” (groos got), is the only way you should greet your fellow revellers before embarking on your day of Oktoberfest festivities.
3. “Oans, zwoa, drei, g’suffa!” – The Bavarian drinking cry basically translates as “one, two, three, drink!” And make sure you also use…
4. “Prost!” – Though this might look the same as the “cheers” used by Northern Germans when they toast, you’ll have to soften your consonants and roll your rrs to make the Bavarian equivalent sound correct. Remember also, you must look into each other's eyes when saying it and then take a drink!
5. “O’zapft is’!” – Though you probably won’t need to say this yourself, this is a very important phrase at Oktoberfest if only because no beer can be drunk before it is announced! It falls upon the Mayor of Munich to open Oktoberfest by tapping a beer keg and shouting “O’ZAPFT IS’!”, thus officially starting the festivities. It literally means, “It’s tapped!”
6. “Die Maß” – the Bavarian word that refers to a one-litre glass mug of beer. Make sure you order a Maß if you want to drink like a true Bavarian – ordering a normal beer just won’t cut it at Oktoberfest! A Maß is always made of clear glass at Oktoberfest, so you can be sure you are getting your money’s worth. It is also important to refer to the actual beer itself as Oktoberfestbier. Only 6 breweries, all within Munich’s city walls, are allowed to serve at Oktoberfest, so they are very firm that it is no ordinary beer! A stein may refer to the stone-like large mugs you can also get beers served in at some tents.
More Bavarian words and phrases, and also some tips and info:
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