With a slight autumn chill in the air and the leaves changing to fall colors, it's the perfect time to experience Oktoberfest. Now, of course you could fly 5,392 miles for 11-plus hours at great expense to experience Oktoberfest in Munich. Or you could make your way in about 20 minutes from Salt Lake City up to Snowbird Resort's Oktoberfest in Little Cottonwood Canyon.
Obviously, the scale of the two events differ greatly, but Snowbird's isn't anything to sneeze at. It attracts some 60,000 visitors each year, making it one of Utah's biggest festivals. In fact, it was chosen by Men's Journal in 2014 as one of their "10 Best Oktoberfest Celebrations in America." One thing that distinguishes Snowbird's festivities from most others is that it is so family-friendly. There are a ton of activities for all ages to enjoy, from face painting and zip-line rides to an electronic bucking bull, carnival games, bouncy houses, bungee trampolines and more.
This year's is the 44th annual event (with a birthdate in 1972). That's when a couple of nostalgic, lederhosen-clad Swiss gents, reminded of their homeland by the majestic mountains at Snowbird, were inspired to play their accordions and sing songs in their native language. Granted, the history of the local celebration can't compete with Germany's, which dates back to 1810. But in a state that many people still think is "dry," it's damned appealing, and in addition to beer you'll also find hard cider, barley wine, spirts and liqueurs. Make sure to bring your I.D.
At its core, Oktoberfest is about beer. And this year's event offers a wide range of full-strength bottles from local brewers, as well as an excellent selection from German producers. The unadventurous could, of course, enjoy their Coors Light. But true beer lovers can savor the opportunity to sample from some 60 different full-strength varieties from locals like Uinta, Squatters, Wasatch, Moab and Bohemian, as well as domestic suds from Leinenkugel's, Lagunitas, Angry Orchard, Sierra Nevada, Rogue, Smith & Forge, Oskar Blues, Upslope and Sam Adams.
Some of the specifics I'd focus on include Wasatch Devastator Double Bock, Bohemian Dortmunder Export Lager, Uinta Fest Helles, Moab Tripel and Leinenkugel's Oktoberfest. That's only a handful of the available brews, but keep in mind you have multiple weekends to enjoy these festivities, which run Saturdays and Sundays from noon-6 p.m. through October 9. Admission, by the way, is free.
In recent years, visitors devoured some 6,000 pounds of bratwurst and weisswurst, 4,500 pounds of chicken and 2,000 Granny Smith apples in the form of strudel. You'll also find Bavarian flavors here in sauerkraut, spatzle, beef rouladen and German chocolate cake.
For a change of pace, enjoy Mexican cuisine at El Chanate, modern American fare in The Aerie, Prime steaks and seafood at Steak Pit, or French-American cooking at The Lodge Bistro.
As in past years, you can get your oompah on with polka bands, enjoy the alpenhorns of Salzburger Echo, rock out to groups such as Ghostowne and work on perfecting your chicken dance.