Every year, beer lovers from around the globe descend upon the town of Munich in Germany’s Bavaria for Oktoberfest, an annual celebration of the great German love of suds – with 2013 marking its 180th anniversary. Of course this gigantic festival (the world’s largest fair) serves up more than just cold brews – with wursts, pretzels, schnitzels, and strudels being consumed by Lederhosen and Dirndl wearing partygoers of all ages.
The real Oktoberfest might be on your bucket list, but if you can’t quite swing the international trip, the good news is, there are festivals throughout the U.S. that do a great job of bringing a little bit of Germany to American soil. And at one in particular, located in the scenic Catskills Mountains region of New York, traditional autumn leaf peeping and harvest celebrating meets German revelry in the best possible way.
The Hunter Mountain Oktoberfest is a free event taking place every year over two weekends in October; this year’s festival was held over October 5-6 and 12-13. Over 40 vendors gathered indoors and out at the base of Hunter Mountain, with the surrounding red, orange, and yellow mountains presiding over the fall fair and providing a dramatic background (the dates typically coincide with the height of upstate New York’s fall foliage viewing).
Equally friendly for adults looking for a daytime party and families looking for free fun, there are outdoor beer gardens (for the former), jugglers and puppet shows (for the latter), and calorie ridden treats (for both). The festival also features live German music, opportunities to purchase your own Lederhosen and Dirndls, and last but not least, the awe inspiring natural entertainment of the mountain itself. A highlight is hopping on the ski lift and viewing the colorful surroundings from above.
There’s enough to do (and eat and drink) to make a full day or weekend of it. Here are just some of the musts:
– Try the insanely good potato pancakes at Scottie’s Baked Potatoes: Huge, crispy, and golden brown, these fried treats (served with applesauce and sour cream) are the best of their kind at the festival.
– Andrew Simmons Wildlife Show: Taking place in the Kid’s Tent (but equally entertaining for adults), this wildlife expert has been featured on Good Morning America, the Today Show, and more. He not only brings animals with him that range from adorable to terrifying but he also has a great appreciation for the exotic creatures he’s performing with.
– Jimmy Sturr & His Orchestra: You might not be a great enthusiast of polka, per se, but seeing this Grammy winning polka prodigy (whose orchestra is on the List of the Top Ten All Time Grammy Awards) definitely gets you in the Oktoberfest spirit.
– Karl Ehmer’s “World Famous” Bratwurst: They’ve been making traditional, old-school German sausages since 1932, and they’re as good as they look. Served loaded with sauerkraut and a side of German potato salad, add a few cold beers and you’ll practically be speaking German in no time.
– Damned Good German beers: Skip the lines outside and head to the main bar inside, where a small selection of very good beer is being enjoyed by those who definitely enjoy it. Then head back out to the picnic tables and drink in the suds and the postcard worthy scenery.
Those living in New York City and the tri-state area can easily hop in their car (or Zipcar), take a scenic drive upstate and combine HunterMountain’s Oktoberfest with a fall foliage weekend getaway. Here’s how to make the most of it.
Where to Stay:
The Emerson Resort & Spa — Located about 30 minutes from HunterMountain, this elegant country inn offers both family friendly accommodations (in the log cabin-esque Lodge) and adults only options (in the contemporary, romantic Inn). They have a full service Ayurvedic spa, three renowned dining options, and several onsite stores—including the Kaleidostore, housing America’s largest kaleidoscope. Another bonus: they are very dog-friendly. 5340 Rt. 28, Mt. Tremper, NY, 877-688-2828; www.emersonresort.com
Four Seasons Getaways — As an alternative to a traditional hotel stay, consider gathering a large group of friends or family, and renting your own country inn or estate. Four Seasons Getaways offers two Catskills properties, each within a very short drive of HunterMountain, with spectacular views and amenities. “Your Own Estate” is a 4, 500 square foot vacation home set on 30 sprawling acres, featuring a private lake, an 8 person Jacuzzi, a picnic area, a fire pit, a wet bar, a game room, a poker table, ridiculously gorgeous mountain views, and extreme privacy. www.4sg.com
What (Else) To Do:
Hull-O Farms — Hop on the hay ride to the 15 acre corn maze, while the eccentric Farmer Frank tells you about his family’s history on the farm, dating back to the revolutionary war. Pick your own pumpkins, buy local honey and syrup, and get into the Halloween spirit by visiting his family’s cemetery, with graves from the 1700’s. 10 Cochrane Rd., Durham, NY, 518-239-6950; www.hull-o.com
Ashokan Horseback Riding Club — There’s no better way to experience the scenery and the season than on horseback. They offer trails for all levels of riders, and are open year-round. 363 Beaverkill Rd., Olivebridge, NY, 845-657-8021;