Autumn brings with it pumpkin spice, chilly evenings, apple picking, farmers markets, and of course Oktoberfest. It is held every year in Bavaria Germany as a folk festival running from late September to early October. It is such a huge part of the culture, and has actually been held since 1810. An enormous amount of beer is typically consumed, and the Germans enjoy traditional foods, amusement rides, and various games. In Pennsylvania, I have really started to see the Oktoberfest theme start to be more prevalent in restaurants, and various festivals as well. This year we happened to see that Bethlehem Pennsylvania was holding an Oktoberfest with a Pierogipalooza, so we definitely knew that we would have to check it out!
Before I even start to talk about the activites and delicious food at this venue, you will want to know a little about the history of Bethlehem Pennsylvania, where these events were held. This particular area was a center of trade and industry during the industrial revolution in the United States. Bethlehem Steel was a leader in American manufacturing and was a major supplier in both World Wars providing armor plates and 1,100 war ships. The company ran from 1857 to 2003 and has truly had an impact on a global level. If you are interested in learning more about this crucial period in history, you will want to check out the area and visit the The National Museum of Industrial History located right in Bethlehem by the Steel Stacks. I know personally, it is important to really understand the history of an area to get that perspective and also to really learn about the people and places in it.
After we parked our car (the area has a decent sized parking lot which is amazing for a venue) we noticed that there were two different areas set up for Oktoberfest and Pierogipalooza. We decided to check out the pierogies first and see what flavors they had. My husband and I are super fans of pierogies and it is one of our favorite dishes to make too, so we were interested in seeing the variety that they had.
So, Oktoberfest was the central area of the festival, and then on the outside of it, there were different stands set up to pick up the pierogies. We were excited to see that there was ample seating with tables as well, so that after we picked them up we could relax for it a bit. The flavors available were loaded baked potato, buffalo chicken, jalapeno popper, philly cheesesteak, reuben, and sweet potato pie with maple and marshmallow. They were all so good! My two personal favorites were the buffalo chicken and the sweet potato pierogis, although I would definitely eat them all again.
After we sampled the pierogis, we headed over to the main Oktoberfest area. As we entered, there were sweet greeters and they gave us maps of the different areas. I liked how they did have people to talk to in case if we had any questions. The festival was outside, but there were a lot of tented areas and little shops that lined the path. There were also bathrooms available if needed. (Another very important fact you should know before going to a venue or event!)
I thought it was really neat how many games that were going on as well. Right away we noticed a huge crowd around a line of people holding beer. I later found out that this is called “Steinholding” and is a traditional Bavarian contest where you have to hold a full one-liter beer stein as long as you can. The ladies holding the contest reported that there was a person that had held his beer for 12 minutes, and honestly that seemed very impressive because after watching the contest, it appeared that most of the people were out by 2 minutes. Unfortunately, we did not see it, but apparently, they also have “The Pennsylvania State Steinholding Championship” here as well.
There was also axe throwing, weiner dog races (dachshunds), a weiner dog parade, live music, beer gardens, and lots of areas to get traditional German food and snacks. There was also a very cool glass blowing area and shop set up that we were watching for awhile. It was called the Hot Glass experience by Arts Quest a glass studio. Their creations were simply magnificent, and the artists were so talented. They also have classes if you are interested in learning glass blowing yourself at the Bethlehem Banana Factory Art Center, and I will leave a link at the bottom of the blog if you want to check that out.
The Oktoberfest event spanned over several weekends, so there were a lot of other events as well, these are just some of the things that we saw when we went. In general as well, there are so many activities to do if you are traveling to Bethlehem Pennsylvania from the Christmas Market, historical tours, music concerts, amazing restaurants, a great shopping district, and even a casino (Wind Creek Bethlehem.) Location wise, we are pretty lucky too, because it is literally just about an hour and a half drive from Philly, so it would be an awesome day trip spot too if you are staying here as well.
Let me know in the comments if you have visited the Bethlehem Oktoberfest or Pierogipalooza and what you thought of it. I will also leave links for the events, and other blogs about this spectacular and unique area as well, so make sure you check those out. I hope you are having a wonderful day, and remember to click that subscribe button!
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-For Additional Reading
If you are traveling to the Pennsylvania region, and are interested in learning about its history, a really amazing resource is the book “Pennsylvania A History of the Commonwealth” by which is edited by Randall M. Miller and William Pencak. It is so informative, and reviews the history of our state, in addition to the geography, architecture, archaeology, art history, and even stories of folklore and folklife that are specific to this area.
I personally recommend this book if you are planning a trip to Pennsylvania, or even if you are just interested in learning about the state in general. If you would like to check it out, click on the link below!
If you would like to check out the full list of travel books that I recommend make sure that you check out this comprehensive guide!