Big Bear Lake Oktoberfest: A Taste of Bavaria in California

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Oktoberfest Big Bear Lake CA
Oktoberfest at Big Bear Lake. Photo credit: Kim Orlando

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.

Entrance to Oktoberfest Big Bear Lake CA.
Entrance to Oktoberfest. Photo credit: Kim Orlando
Dancers at Oktoberfest Big Bear Lake CA
Oktoberfest dancing. Photo credit: Kim Orlando

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.

Table with hats displayed for purchase at Oktoberfest Big Bear Lake CA
Join in the fun with a festive hat! Photo credit: Kim Orlando

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 sauerkraut at Oktoberfest Big Bear Lake CA is the best.
The best sauerkraut! Photo credit: Kim Orlando

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).

Giant bavarian pretzel at Oktoberfest Big Bear Lake CA.
Giant Bavarian pretzel and cheese. Photo credit: Kim Orlando

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). 

Oktoberfest Big Bear Lake CA - Hidden Oaks cabin
Hidden Oaks. Photo credit: Kim Orlando

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.

Kim Orlando, founder of SheBuysTravel, is a lifelong traveler, an entrepreneur and a sought-after social media and marketing consultant. She has made hundreds of appearances on TV and in digital and print media, sharing advice and tips built on decades of travel experiences. Hailing from the hills of Kentucky and taking her story to New York, Los Angeles, and beyond, Kim built an online platform, the original TravelingMom, that has reached millions of moms and empowered them to explore the world with their families. Today, TravelingMom has evolved into SheBuysTravel. Kim has been featured on “News Nation,” “Today,” “Good Morning America” and on numerous satellite media tours. She has contributed travel guidance to outlets including The Washington Post, Good Housekeeping, Forbes, the Wall Street Journal and more. (Read more about Kim’s media appearances here) Her travel mantra is simple: All travel counts. “You don’t have to go far. Leaving your home is travel,” Kim says. “Wherever you go, even just to the next town over, you can learn something new, see someone and something you haven’t seen before. “It’s good for the brain and good for the soul.” An epiphany in early parenthood started Kim on the journey that led to SheBuysTravel. She’d been a fan of a newsletter for women travelers, and she saw an opportunity. “I thought something like that for moms could be extraordinarily helpful,” she said. “I was traveling for work, traveling for fun, and I was looking for support.” That seed grew into the award-winning website TravelingMom, created as a resource for traveling families of all stripes. Today, TravelingMom has evolved into SheBuysTravel, with an expanded mission to serve women travelers at any stage of life. Millions of readers have visited the site for trip planning help, travel secrets, destination information and gear recommendations. What sets SheBuysTravel’s content apart, Kim says, is its foundation in real-world experience. “Our writers and editors have actually gone out there and done this stuff,” she says. “They’ve booked the flights, tried the tour, tested travel clothing, visited that new hot spot to see if it’s worth the hype. It’s all real.” Memorable Adventures A 2022 tour Kim guided to Bhutan was a particularly standout experience. “Bhutan sounds so exotic, of course,” she said. “But the part where my heart just glows and warms is thinking of the people we met – amazing women doing amazing things in Bhutan.” Their ranks included a former police officer whose ventures into food science helped mitigate food insecurity for residents of Bhutan’s highlands. Top Tips Planning for travel can be daunting, Kim acknowledges. “I always say: Go anyway. No trip is going to be perfect. There’s always going to be something you didn’t expect, something that doesn’t go the way you pictured or planned it. And that something is what’s going to make it a great trip.” And on a practical note: “Go early! Getting to the airport or hitting the road just an hour earlier relieves so much stress.” Kim’s Background Kim, a graduate of the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management, holds degrees in finance and entrepreneurship and has deep experience in developing and running businesses. Her previous work includes developing and running communications workshops and overseeing document management for corporations. SheBuysTravel hits a sweet spot where Kim’s two loves of travel and entrepreneurship meet. “The longer I work in this field, I only want to do more,” she says. “I find the travel world so exciting – not just the trips, but the whole online world of travel. There are still so many opportunities.” The World Awaits “The ‘best trip ever’ probably won’t be the same for an empty-nester or mom of three versus a single woman celebrating a bachelorette party with her friends,” Kim says. “We want to keep it real for traveling women, no matter what their age, life stage, where they came from or where they’re going. “We want to inspire women to travel in any shape or form.” In her free time, Kim enjoys visiting her adult kids, creating trips and traveling with her BFFs to explore the world. Her most recent adventures can be found on InstagramFacebook and LinkedIn.
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