Where to celebrate Oktoberfest in the D.C. area

Where to celebrate Oktoberfest in the D.C. area

For the first time since 2019, the town of Lovettsville is preparing for a weekend of polka music, racing dachshunds, kids’ karaoke and stein-hoisting competitions in the beer garden. It’s a welcome but cautious return for an Oktoberfest celebration that had been held annually since 1994. “We’re trying to pick up where we left off,” says Jeff Schutte, the chairman of the Virginia town’s Oktoberfest Committee. “We didn’t really want to add too much new stuff after we’d taken three years off.” So while visitors will see the revival of Lovettsville’s pancake breakfast and the debut of a 5K race and fun run, it’s mostly about getting together again and enjoying the traditions.

That’s the case throughout the area, where after two uncertain fall seasons, Oktoberfest and other food and wine festivals are sticking to what they do best and hoping it pays off. In 2018 and ’19, Schutte says, Oktoberfest drew an estimated 12,000 to 14,000 people. This year, if the weather cooperates, the pent-up desire for familiar events could drive attendance even higher. That would cause a few restaurants and breweries to raise a celebratory stein.

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Oktoberfest at the Boro: The Sandlot Tysons beer garden hosts a polka show from the powerhouse TKO Band, while the nearby Boro Park hosts games, stations for making pretzel necklaces or getting a glitter tattoo, and social media backdrops. Grab a stein of something — the first 150 arrivals receive a glass with a logo — and wander among the music and activities. Sept. 17 from 2 to 5 p.m. 8350 Broad St., Tysons, Va. theborotysons.com. Free.

Lovettsville Oktoberfest: Lovettsville’s two-day Oktoberfest shows the historic small town at its best. The Oktoberfest king and queen are crowned at the fire station on Friday night before a ceremonial keg tapping on the town green and a performance by ’80s cover band the Reflex. Saturday brings a pancake breakfast at the elementary school and races in the community park before Kinderfest welcomes kids to the town green for family activities, including karaoke and chicken dances. The main event is the traditional wiener dog races — “the fastest 30-foot dash on 3-inch legs” — beginning at 2 p.m., while German music continues at locations around town, alongside food trucks, vendors and beer gardens. There’s more music in the evening, plus stein holding and hauling competitions, leading to the annual climax: a “world record singalong attempt” for the most people simultaneously singing Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The record for the largest singalong in one place, per Guinness World Records, is 105,000 soccer fans singing “We Will Rock You” in Berlin during a 2010 World Cup match, so Lovettsville might have its work cut out for it. “We don’t take it too seriously,” says Oktoberfest committee chairman Schutte. “It’s our own local thing.” Sept. 23-24. 6 E. Pennsylvania Ave., Lovettsville, Va. lovettsvilleoktoberfest.com. Free.

Frederick’s Oktoberfest at the Frederick Fairgrounds: Frederick’s long-running Oktoberfest nods to the area’s German heritage — the local Historical Society runs a booth that teaches visitors how to explore their German roots and traditions, and anyone wearing authentic Bavarian lederhosen or a dirndl enters free. But at its heart, this is a big German-themed party. The music is split between accordion-driven German bands and retro and rock groups. Brats and jagerschnitzel are served in the “fest tent,” where local breweries, including Flying Dog, Brewer’s Alley and Smoketown, pour seasonal offerings alongside Germany’s Spaten and Hofbrau. On Saturday, college football games are projected on screens in a special sports tent, and there’s music and crafts for kids in their own area. Sept. 30-Oct. 1. 797 E. Patrick St., Frederick, Md. frederickoktoberfest.org. $6-$20; free for children 2 and younger. Discounted advance tickets available until Sept. 29.

Oktoberfest Weekend at the Wharf: Think of this three-day waterfront event as three separate events. The highlight is Saturday afternoon’s 10th annual Wiener 500 Dachshund Dash, which finds multiple heats of dachshunds racing down a 70-foot track while humans cheer and watch on a giant video screen. (The hilarity has a point: Proceeds from entry fees benefit Rural Dog Rescue.) Racing begins at 2 p.m.; the beer garden is packed before and after the competition. On Friday night, there’s polka dancing — with free lessons! — and music on the Transit Pier from 7 to 9 p.m., and Sunday is all about the stein-holding competitions, plus German food specials at nearby restaurants. Sept. 30-Oct. 2. 101 District Sq. SW. wharfdc.com. Free.

Vienna Oktoberfest: Oktoberfest fills the streets of Vienna’s historic district with craft vendors, beer gardens and live entertainment. The town green is given over to children, with games, bouncy obstacle courses and a stage that hosts singing princesses and well-known entertainer the Great Zucchini. Adults can hit the beer garden and listen to blues, disco and German music on one stage, or browse stands run by local restaurants, offering barbecue, empanadas or drinks from Vienna’s Caboose Brewing. Oct. 1 from 10:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. 131 Church St. NE, Vienna, Va. viennaoktoberfest.org. Free.

Silver Branch Oktoberfest: Silver Branch Brewing crafts a wide variety of IPAs, but some of its most satisfying products have a distinctly German character. The Silver Spring brewery celebrates Oktoberfest with the release of a traditional amber-colored Märzen. Settle into the long biergarten-style tables on the patio this weekend for beers, live music (including the Polka Terps after work on Friday) and a menu of freshly grilled brats. Saturday afternoon features a stein-holding competition as well as a German fashion contest. Through Sept. 18. 8401 Colesville Rd., Silver Spring, Md. silverbranchbrewing.com. Free.

Bluejacket Oktoberfest: How many German-style beers does Bluejacket create at its Navy Yard brewery? You might be surprised. To mark the start of Oktoberfest, seven beers are being served in traditional Franconian-style gravity kegs, which pour naturally carbonated beers without the extra carbon dioxide used to dispense beer through “normal” taps. In addition to Hill House, the annual fest beer release, selections include Change Tomorrow, a Bavarian-style Pilsener; Before Sunrise, a Märzen; and Always Wonder, a low-alcohol schankbier, or table beer. Listen to tunes from the Edelweiss Band and Polka Terps while noshing on brats and pretzels. (Also, look for limited-edition cans, including five-liter mini-kegs of Hill House, on the way out.) Sept. 17 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. 300 Tingey St. SE. bluejacketdc.com. Free.

Caboose Commons Hoptoberfest: In addition to Oktoberfest, this weekend is also the celebration of Caboose Commons’ four years in Fairfax. Head to the spacious converted warehouse for a mini beer festival with pours from five special guests, including Richmond’s Väsen and Ashburn’s Dynasty. Entertainment includes live music, a bouncy house for kids and free birthday cake at 3 p.m. Sept. 17 from noon to 7 p.m. 2918 Eskridge Rd., Fairfax, Va. caboosebrewing.com. Free.

Wheatland Spring Oktoberfest: One of the most scenic and delicious Oktoberfest parties in the area is held at Wheatland Spring, where recent years have included sitting at a picnic table and sipping biscuity festbier made with Bavarian grain while overlooking fields of sunflowers. Saturday is the more traditional celebration, with music, homemade pretzels, stein-holding contests and other games, while Sunday is “Family Day” with games for kids, an ice cream truck and pony rides (for an additional fee). Sept. 17-18. 38506 John Wolford Rd., Waterford, Va. wheatlandspring.com. $25, includes a stein and first beer; $5 designated driver; $2 for children 2 and older.

Maryland Wine Festival: The peaceful grounds of the Carroll County Farm Museum will be a great place to explore Maryland’s wine scene as dozens of wineries from the state set up shop with pours to sample and bottles to purchase. (You can check out a Maryland Cheese Pavilion for locally made cheddars, too). There are two tiers of tickets: The basic level provides access to the main field, where you’ll find wineries, food options, live music, and arts and crafts for sale, or you can upgrade to access an explorer village offering a different set of Maryland-grown wines and amenities like picnic tables and air-conditioned restrooms. Sept. 17-18. Carroll County Farm Museum, 500 S. Center St., Westminster, Md. marylandwine.org/mwf. $20-$65.

Virginia Wine Festival: Even basic general admission for the Virginia Wine Festival gets you unlimited tastings from wineries and cider houses located across the state. Besides more than 100 different pours, tickets include the Virginia Oyster Pavilion, where a la carte oysters from the Chesapeake are for sale. The festival at a fancy mixed-use development in Ashburn also brings in food trucks and live music, and bottles can be purchased to take home. VIP tickets allow early admission and a tasting of Virginia “reserve” wines. Oct. 1-2. One Loudoun, 44600 Freetown Blvd., Ashburn, Va. virginiawinefest.com. $15-$79.

Mount Vernon Wine Festival: Like fellow Virginian Thomas Jefferson, George Washington was a wine aficionado, and attempted to cultivate both Madeira and indigenous grapes at Mount Vernon, with disappointing results. Washington would be impressed with how far Virginia’s wine industry has come, as demonstrated at this annual tasting. Twenty wineries, including Barboursville, Williamsburg, Fox Meadow and, of course, Jefferson Vineyards, are showcased on the East Lawn, with its Potomac River views. Picnic blankets are encouraged. Three floors of the mansion are open, and the Mount Vernon Inn sells snacks. Oct. 7-9. 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Hwy., Mount Vernon. mountvernon.org. $53-$63.

Distillery Lane Ciderworks Fall Harvest Weekend: The orchards at Distillery Lane Ciderworks teem with more than 45 varieties of unusual apples, such the Newtown Pippin, the Roxbury Russet and the Kingston Black. This fall, the Frederick County farm is going to be open for only two weekends, and for fans of tart, crisp ciders — with or without alcohol — it’s worth the drive. This year’s event features eight ciders to sample, either in flights or by the glass, as well as 18 or 19 varieties to taste and purchase, says owner Rob Miller, who will be leading tours of the orchard throughout the weekend. (Look for apple cider doughnuts made with juice from Distillery Lane’s fruit.) Other attractions include beekeeping demonstrations and honey tastings and the debut of two low-alcohol vinegar drinks, made by blending cider-based vinegar, honey and aronia berries. Oct. 15-16. distillerylaneciderworks.com. Free.


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