In San Diego, we are no rookies when it comes to finding an occasion to drink. We win the award for most creativity in beer events hands down. Come October, we’re suddenly all avid-German enthusiasts. October equals Oktoberfest, an easy equation that smells an awful lot like bratwurst.

While the tradition in Germany is a 16-day festival, Oktoberfest is celebrated all over San Diego on various dates and at a range of locations (from Balboa Park to Julian). Today, what started as a Bavarian agricultural show has turned into an international holiday loved by many. Apart from loads of beer, there’s always tons of traditional food and family-friendly activities for all to enjoy. We may not be able to attend the real deal in Munich, but there are still plenty of entertaining ways to celebrate Oktoberfest in San Diego

Discover the best 2012 Oktoberfest celebrations in San Diego

Oktoberfest at Balboa Park – September 22 & 23

The International Folk Dancers of Balboa Park put on their 55th Annual Oktoberfest in the Balboa Park Club. This free family event includes traditional folk dance performances, free dance lessons, colorful costumes, activities for the little ones, arts and crafts and endless food vendors. On Saturday from 1pm to 4pm, learn the basic folk dance steps including polka. On Sunday from 12:30pm to 5pm, don’t miss the dance festival along with a grand march. The House of Germany’s own Heimatklang Choir will provide the entertainment, as well as a German brass band and accompanying folk dancers. The food and alcohol-free beverage selection (for a nominal charge) will feature bratwurst, sauerkraut, potato salad, German cakes, coffee and lemonade. Plus, your leashed dogs are invited to attend. Get details here 

17th Annual Encinitas Oktoberfest – September 23

From 10am to 5pm, head to the six-block marketplace at Mountain Vista Drive and El Camino Real for the grand Encinitas Oktoberfest. As one of the first festive events of the season, the Encinitas affair will feature Gemutlichkeit Alpine dancers, Al Wehrle and the Alpine Quintett band and a street craft faire with over 200 vendors including artisans with unusual arts and craft items. The family food and refreshment tent will be serving authentic German grub provided by Big John and Tip Top Meats, as well as beers from national and local breweries. The kiddos are invited, too – a fun zone with children’s games and family-oriented activities will be featured.  Get details here.

Oktoberfest in El Cajon – September 28-30 & October 5-7

Oktoberfest in El Cajon is brought to locals by the German American Societies of San Diego.  Held during the last weekend of September and the first weekend of October, El Cajon gets an annual hearty heaping of traditional German foods, German beers and an authentic band from Germany, Guggenbach-Buam. They’ve flown in from Germany to perform at this event for the last eight years. Dressed in traditional clothing, Guggenbach-Buam will play the jams just as you would hear in the beer gardens of Bavaria. Other activities include traditional folk dancing performances, craft booths and games. Head out on both Fridays from 4pm to 10pm, Saturdays from 12pm to 10pm and Sundays from 12pm to 9pm. Get details here.


Pugtoberfest – September 29

It doesn’t get much better than pugs, the beach, beer and grub all at Sunset Cliffs. From 2pm to 5pm, join the Pug Rescue of San Diego County for a tail-wagging time that will highlight some quality pug-socializing. All proceeds go directly to animal care costs. Alternative breeds are also welcome. Come one, come all, and bring your four-legged friend! Get details here.

Green Flash’s 1st Oktoberfest – September 30

San Diego’s beloved brewery Green Flash is getting a piece of the Oktoberfest action for the first time. From 12pm to 6pm, head to the Mira Mesa brewery for a full lineup of fall brews, overflowing food tents and tons of upbeat polka music. Inside of the Biergarten, you’ll find a food village with brats from Swieners, authentic Bavarian soft pretzels from the San Diego Pretzel Company and world cheeses from Taste Cheese. In the tasting room, you can try the custom Green Flash Stein along with Fest Beer, cask offerings and the rest of the seasonal beers. The family-friendly event will also include a costume contest, face-painting and mask-making. Admission is free; food and drink is extra. Get details here.

La Mesa Oktoberfest – October 5-7

This three-day festival stretching from October 5th through 7th includes over ten blocks of live music, 300 booths, two beer gardens, endless food, a kid’s carnival and live music at every turn. All at no cost to the public, the La Mesa Oktoberfest continues its history as one of the largest three-day events in San Diego. Buckle up for plenty of bratwurst, polka music, cold beer and family fun. An expected turnout of 200,000 people will meander the streets, rubbing shoulders with some spirited oom-pah bands and costumed folk dancers. The La Mesa Oktoberfest runs from 11am to 11:30pm on Friday and Saturday, and from 12pm to 5pm on Sunday. Get details here.

The Carlsbad Rotary Oktoberfest – October 6 

From 12pm to 10pm at the Holiday Park in Carlsbad, The Carlsbad Rotary Oktoberfest presents a traditional German dinner complete with warm apple strudel and festive fun. Throughout the day, guests can find live music, lots of dancing, children’s activities, a pumpkin patch, and of course, endless amounts of beer. Live music will be provided by Palomar Pacific Coast Concert Band, The Bluebirds German Band, the Last Call Classic Rock Band and many more. On average, about 8,000 people attend the Carlsbad Rotary Oktoberfest each year, which began in 1982. Get your polka on and don’t forget to enter the pumpkin decorating contest. Get details here.


EdUCate! Oktoberfest  October 6

Annually, EdUcate! Presents this thrilling event for the whole UC community from 2pm to 6pm. All proceeds go towards supplemental classroom materials, which improve instruction in UC’s five public schools. This year, find games for the kids, German musical entertainment and tons of beer from San Diego’s best local breweries. Home brewers should start preparing for the 4th Annual University City Home Brew Contest. This year’s contest will again take place during EdUCate!’s Oktoberfest at Standley Park. This year’s category is “Belgian and French Ale” and all are encouraged to participate. Getdetails here.

Ocean Beach Oktoberfest – October 12 & 13

The OB Oktoberfest returns for two days of lots of jovial music and even more beer. This year will feature the return of the Mrs. And Mr. Oktoberfest Contest, the Sausage Toss, the Brat Trat Beach Run, the Beer Garden Band Slam and of course, loud and proud oom-pah bands. You heard right – they’re bringing back the Oktoberfest Band Slam. Cover bands are currently competing to perform in the finals of Oktoberfest, held on Friday night. Friday will also include a 91X Happy Hour celebration – 91-mintues of 2-for-1 beers. Saturday will see a full day of food vendors, both German and local beers and three San Diego Music Award-winning bands. The Ocean Beach Oktoberfest runs from 4:30pm to 10pm on Friday and from 10am to 10pm on Saturday. Admission to the beer garden is a $3 donation that goes to support the Ocean Beach community. The outdoor area is always free. The event also offers shuttle service back and forth from Pacific Beach on both Friday and Saturday and a bicycle parking area. Get details here.

St. Elizabeth’s Oktoberfest in Julian – October 13 & 14

Julian already exudes cozy and festive warmth. Add some Oktoberfest fun, and you’ve got a recipe for fall adventure. At the Rabobank Parking Lot for two days, St. Elizabeth’s Oktoberfest brings the best of bratwurst, beer, oom-pah music and dancers in traditional German and Austrian style. It’s all part of the ongoing Julian Apple Days celebration. Get details here.