Though it originated in Germany in the early 1800s as a royal wedding celebration, Oktoberfest has found its way around the world in the form of a popular folk festival. Given Vail, Colorado, is a town with notable Bavarian influence, it’s no wonder that Vail Oktoberfest has become a beloved tradition each fall. Less than two hours from Denver, this mountain town is also an easy escape for a day trip or weekend, whether you’re road-tripping or flying into Denver International Airport (DEN). Eagle County Regional Airport (EGE) serves Vail as well.
Here are all the reasons you won’t want to miss Vail Oktoberfest.
1. There are two weekends of fun to choose from.
Both of Vail’s villages get a turn to host Oktoberfest, meaning double the fun! The event spans two weekends: Sept. 8–10, 2023 is at Lionshead Village, while Vail Village’s weekend is Sept. 15–17, 2023. With free entry (no tickets required) and all ages welcome, you can visit more than once to make sure you see it all. Plus, there are free town buses to get around — especially helpful if you’re staying outside of the heart of town.
2. European-style surroundings & atmosphere set the scene.
You might just think you’ve been transported to an alpine European village when you’re in Vail. Not only do you have stunning mountain backdrops, but influences of Germany, Austria and Switzerland are seen in the architecture and cuisine. In fact, the town’s founder, Pete Siebert, intended to replicate places in Europe that he saw during World War II.
As you sip a stein of beer, look around to admire the Bavarian farmhouse-style buildings. Accommodations like the Sonnenalp Vail, Christiania at Vail, Hotel Gasthof Gramshammer, Austria Haus and The Ritz-Carlton Club, Vail are all über-charming places to stay that will keep you in the spirit of the festivities. Don’t forget to book direct!
3. An exciting lineup of free entertainment will keep you on your feet.
The array of music and performances on the schedule throughout each weekend provides an ever-present soundscape of revelry. Cut a rug to Bavarian-style brass bands belting out “oom-pah” music, a folk style similar to polka, and watch impressive performances from Bavarian dancers. Yodeling and alpenhorn blowing are also sure to get your attention. The party kicks into high gear on Friday and Saturday nights with live rock concerts starting at 7pm.
4. You can watch or compete in comical contests.
If you’re a fan of people-watching, there’s plenty to see at Vail Oktoberfest. Don’t miss being a spectator to some truly amusing-yet-impressive contests. Participants bring out their finest lederhosen and dirndls for the costume contest, test arm strength and stamina during the stein-lifting competition, give it their all for keg bowling and stretch the limits of their stomachs to win bragging rights as the bratwurst-eating champion. Cheer them on, or even sign up to be a contestant yourself!
5. Delicious cuisine & refreshing beverages beckon.
Speaking of brats, when hunger strikes you’ll have a variety of tasty, authentic fare to sample. Stop by vendors serving up dishes like pierogies, pretzels and bratwurst. Of course, what would Oktoberfest be without beer? Luckily there are plenty of beer tents to grab a brew and purchase an official Vail Oktoberfest stein, which comes with one complimentary beer. The commemorative glasses can go fast, but there’s an option to preorder a stein to ensure you get one for all your toasting. Prost!
6. There’s amusement for the whole family.
Everyone is welcome at Vail Oktoberfest, and little ones are sure to delight in doing the chicken dance and watching the lively competitions. But there is also specific family-friendly programming with Kid-Tober Fest, where you’ll find fun fall activities, special performers and more.
7. Fall is a beautiful time of year to explore Vail.
The timing of this outdoor event couldn’t be more ideal. With typically pleasant weather in the upper 60s, it’s likely you’ll have clear, blue skies as you make your way around Vail Village and Lionshead Village. If you’re looking for activities beyond the festival, September is prime time for leaf peeping. See the glorious fall foliage on a hike, bike ride or even a scenic gondola ride up Vail Mountain. Gondola One leaves from Vail Village, while you can catch the Eagle Bahn Gondola from Lionshead. The views of glittering aspens along the Gore Range are unmatched.
Note: In fall, the gondola runs weekly, Friday through Sunday, Sept. 8–Oct. 4, 2023. Learn more.
Car enthusiasts should also check out Vail Concours, an automotive showcase that coincides with the second weekend of Oktoberfest, Sept. 15–17, 2023.