The writer was hosted.
Big Bear Lake Oktoberfest has been an annual treasure for over 50 years. Held at the Big Bear Lake Convention Center from September 9 – November 4, 2023, it is authentically German and consistently voted the #1 Oktoberfest in Southern California. German bands, like the Die Sauerkrauts, fly in from Germany to provide live music and MC contests like log sawing and stein carrying.
The atmosphere is festive and welcoming, and the dance floor is packed with visitors in lederhosen and dirndls doing the polka and chicken dance. Every once in a while, the band will shout, “Zicke Zacka, Zicke Zacka”, and everyone responds, “Hoi, Hoi, Hoi!,” just like they do at the Munich Oktoberfest. It was hilarious.
The refillable stein made it possible for me to sample many German beers and lagers; Warsteiner Oktoberfest is my favorite German beer (so far). I couldn’t try them all because there was so much German food to taste: bratwurst with pretzel roll, sausages, vegan bratwurst, delicious apple strudel (made by a German baker in Orange County), a humungous Bavarian pretzel, beer cheese and currywurst.
The star is the infamous secret recipe sauerkraut, and I would make that drive up the mountain again just to have more of it. No need to worry about Ubers or sampling too much German beer; a trolley will deliver you to your lodging free of charge. Also, free general admission for American heroes (NOTE: advance reservations are encouraged).
Where to Stay in Big Bear Lake
Destination Big Bear is one of the major property managers in the area, with 400 cabins to choose from. The cabin I stayed in, Hidden Oaks, sleeps 8, has floor-to-ceiling windows, and a hot tub surrounded by trees in the backyard (which I used daily).
The cabin was stocked with pots, pans, towels, and hand and dish soap but no bathing soap – bring your own. It was cool at night, but since it was only me traveling, I never lit the huge living room fireplace. I did light the fireplace in my bedroom, which just added to the whole cozy atmosphere, with elevated beds topped with puffy comforters.