Germany's famed Oktoberfest celebration kicked off last week in Munich, and more than six million dirndl and lederhosen-wearing revelers are expected to down more than 14 million pints of beer before its all over with. That means the Tampa Bay area has some catching up to do.
That shouldn't be a problem. Starting this weekend, the next four weeks hold all sorts of bratwursts, brews, games and music for locals. Whether you're looking for a family-friendly outing, or a wild weekend, there's something on the calendar for you.
Today through Sunday
Oktoberfest Tampa Bavarian Games, Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park – “Skill. Strength. Beer.” That's the motto for Tampa's largest Oktoberfest celebration, which also happens to be the most competitive. Attendees can take part in an “olympiad” of beer-fueled games including brat tossing, stein hoisting, knuckle wrestling and something called “carry the wench,” for a chance to win some interesting prizes. Or you can just chill out and enjoy a schnitzel plate with an authentic Weissbier served in a giant, one-liter stein. $10 single day, $25 for a weekend pass, 21-and-up, oktoberfesttampa.com.
Today and Saturday
Oktoberfest, German American Society of Pinellas County, Pinellas Park – The Tampa Bay area's preeminent German-American organization likes to bill its yearly fest as the “most authentic” of all the local Oktoberfests, with a serious dedication to doing things just like they're done in Munich. Maybe that's why it starts earlier than other local Oktoberfests (in Germany, Oktoberfest starts in September). You can also expect that to mean excellent “hausgemacht” (homemade) traditional foods such as blaukraut (red cabbage), spaetzle (noodles) and fresh-baked soft pretzels. And nothing but imported German beer, of course. $6, all ages, bestgermanclub.com
Oktoberfest On the Beach, Kolb Park, Indian Rocks Beach — Indian Rocks does it Florida-style with an Oktoberfest on the Gulf. There's a “kinderfest” with games for children, a silent auction, arts and crafts show, German band and beer garden, plus more than 60 vendors selling everything from Bavarian goulash to hand-crafted jewelry. Free admission, all ages, oktoberfestonthebeach.com
Oktoberfest and Car Show, downtown Avon Park – Celebrate by eating bratwurst and watching similarly-shaped German dogs compete in the fifth annual “weiner dog races” down Museum Avenue. There's also the “firematics” fireman's olympics, bounce houses, music and car show. $2 to $10, all ages, avonparkcra.com
Oct. 17 to 20
Fall Festival & Oktoberfest, Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Dunedin – The family-friendly Oktoberfest returns for its 42nd year. The large carnival includes a Ferris wheel and other rides, plus games, large flea market and crafts boutique. The Oktoberfest tent features beer, German food, polka music, sports on TV and a performance by local rock and soul band The Black Honkeys. Free admission, all ages, ollfallfestival.com
Oct. 18 to 20
Top O' the Bay Oktoberfest, Tampa Bay Downs, Oldsmar – The Oldsmar Chamber of Commerce's weekend-long Oktoberfest and carnival draws as many as 20,000 people to its midway and big-top at the race course each year. Along with the carnival rides and games, the 18th annual edition will feature a variety of competitions (log sawing, keg throwing, stein holding), plus German dancers and music by the Grammy-nominated Alex Meixner (who rocks an accordion like Eddie Van Halen rocks a guitar) all three days. $5, all ages, oldsmarchamber.com/index.cfm?PageID=64&TopLevel=1
Craft Beer Oktoberfest, Ramond James Stadium – This part Oktoberfest, part tailgate party will feature a giant LED screen to watch the Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on the Atlanta Falcons on the road. Local acts 10th concession, Save the Radio and Woody Detwiler will provide live music. Pay ala carte or buy a wristband to get unlimited access to a large variety of craft beers and fair food. Plus, it's dog friendly. Admission free, armbands $35 to $70, all ages, craftbeeroktoberfest.com.
Oktoberfest, Christ Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, Temple Terrace – It's a family-friendly, traditional German celebration with a rock climbing wall, pumpkin bowling, craft vendors and more. The oompah band consists of USF music students and the church's pastor. Fare will include brats, German potato salad and strudel. Free admission, all ages, corlutheran.wix.com/cor/
Through Oct. 27
Oktoberfest Beer Cruises, Yacht StarShip, Tampa – The local dinner-cruise ship celebrates Oktoberfest with beer tasting cruises on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays in October. Oktoberfest guests board the ship early for an hour-long beer tasting of up to six premium beers on the top deck, before the regular two-and-a-half-hour dinner cruise featuring the ship's new fall menu and spectacular views from Tampa Bay. $25 (in addition to regular dinner cruise price), 21-and-up, yachtstarship.com
Note: The annual St. Pete Oktoberfest in the Grand Central district has been canceled for 2013, but organizers say they're exploring options for bringing it back in some form for 2014.