Yes, You Can Visit Oktoberfest with Kids
Would you go to Oktoberfest with a child? Had you asked me that before I was a mother, I would have said no way. But, guess what? Oktoberfest is a family affair for the German people! For those of you in the USA, think of it like a giant state fair.
A few years ago we spent one month in Munich, Germany with our daughter who was 15 months old at the time. The last weekend of our stay coincided with the start of Oktoberfest. I was such a noob that I didn't realize Oktoberfest actually starts in September and ends in October. I remember during the planning process that I thought we would miss Oktoberfest altogether.
Thankfully, it turns out we didn't miss it, but unfortunately that meant prices for apartments and hotels skyrocketed the last 4 days of our stay. In fact, it would have cost us almost as much for the last 4 days and for the previous 2 weeks. However, we have friends that live in Munich who were kind enough to invite us to be houseguests so we were able to experience our first Oktoberfest on a budget. Yay!!
Tips for Visiting Oktoberfest with Kids
1. You will hear it time and time again, but it really is best to get there early (and leave early).
Your kids probably wake up early anyway, so use that to your advantage and get an early start. Best to see and experience Oktoberfest with kids in the morning and head out around 2:00 - 3:00 pm. Remember, beer is only served in liter mugs (that's almost 34 ounces or almost 3 bottles of beer!) They go down quickly and before you know it, you and your family will be the only sober people at the party. Who wants that?!
2. Wear comfortable (closed-toed) shoes
We were there on the first day (the one with the horse parade) and there were horse droppings everywhere. Mixed with the slight drizzle and it started becoming a sloppy mess by midday. I cannot imagine having sandals on with all of that muck!
3. Leave the big bags behind
Strollers and small bags are allowed and you will need to go through a security checkpoint. However, with increased security measures large bags are not allowed. We have heard there are storage lockers, but can't confirm as we have not used them. Plus, it can get pretty crowded, especially in the beer tents, so best to only bring the items you absolutely need.
But, Oktoberfest with a Toddler was Fun! (I promise!!)
4. Enjoy the Spectacle
My best tip is to just enjoy the razzle dazzle of it all. The normally straight laced Germans let loose a bit and enjoy themselves. This is a big party and sure it’s centered around beer (which Germans take very seriously) but it is family friendly. And if you want to dress up, you will not be the only one in a traditional Oktoberfest dress or Lederhosen.
5. Make sure to check out a few of the different beer tents
Each one is decorated differently and all are spectacular. There are 14 main tents and several smaller tents. And when I say tent - think circus tent. They are huge and hold about 8,500 people! They also allow children under 8 years old in the tents during the day. Unfortunately we learned this a bit late and did not visit the tents with Eleanor. We did get a chance to go in the beer tents on our own while our friends watched Eleanor. Thanks guys!
6. Don’t forget the rides, games, and food
This is a fair after all! And what would a fair be without rides and games and food? Of course, the food is not the healthiest and I will leave it up to you if carnival rides are your thing, but it brings back memories of the county fair when I was a kid. Remember those days?!?
7. Check out the family days
We were not in Munich long enough to enjoy Oktoberfest on a family day, but there are 2 specific days were rides and performances cost less. in 2018 there are 2 family days. Both Oktoberfest Family Days are on Tuesdays and the price reduction lasts until 7:00 pm.
Top Points of Interest About Oktoberfest
1. Opening day at Oktoberfest starts with a parade of beer
There are opening ceremonies and the festivities start with horse-drawn carriages of beer kegs. They are quite the site to see! Eleanor was fascinated by the beautifully decorated horses and enjoyed the free cookie she was given by a lovely girl dressed in a traditional Dirndl.
2. The cookies are more to look at than to eat.
The big gingerbread cookies, called Lebkuchenherzen, are not great tasting, but they are darling and decent for a toddler to gnaw on if you can break off the frosting.
3. Beer drinking does not start until the Mayor taps the first keg at noon on day 1.
Following the procession of horses and beer wagons, the mayor taps the first keg at noon and only then are visitors to Oktoberfest able to start drinking. The beer tent for this ceremonial tap changes each year so as to spread the love between the German beers.
3. Be sure to tie your ribbon correctly!
If you do decide to dress up in a Dirndl, be sure to tie your apron ribbon the right way or you may send the wrong message. Tied in a bow on the right side means you are taken, the left side means you are single, center means you are a virgin, and tied at the back is reserved for widows.
4. Don't worry too much if you did not get a table reservation.
There are sections of seating available for those of us non-planners that show up on a whim and do not have a reservation. Actually about 1/3 of the beer tents are unreserved seats so if you are there mid-week by mid-afternoon, you should be able to score a seat pretty easily. I was determined to get a seat in the Augustiner tent because that is the one most locals flock to and Brett had gotten a chance to go to the Hofbräu tent the night before.
5. The barmaids can be your saving grace.
Remember how I wanted a seat at a table in the Augustiner tent? We arrived between 4:00 - 5:00 pm on the first Sunday and with the help of the barmaid we squeezed into a table. The barmaids want you sitting so they can serve you beer and get a tip. If you are standing you have to order your beer from the bar and they miss out. She noticed us eyeing a table that had some slivers of space and waived us in while motioning for the other patrons to move down. Yes!
I definitely did not think Oktoberfest was for kids before our native German friends insisted otherwise. Now that we've been with a child in tow we realized that our perception of a glorified drunken beer party was totally wrong. Okay, there are a few tourists that turn it into that by drinking too much, but Oktoberfest was a highlight from our first extended trip to Europe and something I hope to do again with Eleanor when she big enough for the rides. It really was one of the most fun experiences and goes down as a travelers must for me. Great beer, food, carnival atmosphere, people, and everyone is out celebrating, singing, dancing, and having fun. It was an awesome experience!
Have a tip for attending Oktoberfest? Let me know below!
Where to stay in Munich
Best Budget Hotel: Hotel Vitalis
Best Mid-Range Hotel: Leonardo Hotel & Residenz Munchen
Best Luxury Hotel: Vi Vadi Hotel Bayer 89
Best Airport Hotel: Holiday Inn Express Munich Airport
Popular tours in and around Munich you might enjoy:
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