Stay in an ice hotel, attend a winter festival and wander through an ice castle.
It’s beer, bands and Bavarian bravado as Kitchener-Waterloo gets set to celebrate its 50th annual Oktoberfest from October 5 to 13, 2018. The festival has grown from a weekend affair set in one venue to the largest Oktoberfest in North America. The nine-day, region-wide festival puts on more than 40 family and cultural events and attracts around 700,000 people to 11 festhallen (festival venues). While the food, song, dance, beer and revelry take centre stage, there are plenty of attractions and sites in the region to visit during the celebration.
Here are 50 things to do at Kitchener-Waterloo’s 50th Oktoberfest.
1. Attend the Opening Ceremonies
Don’t miss the tapping of the ceremonial keg to signal the beginning of Oktoberfest. It happens at the opening ceremonies on October 5 at 11:15 a.m. at Kitchener City Hall’s Carl Zehr Square.
2. Chant while you drink
Before attending Oktoberfest, stand in front of the mirror and practice chanting Zicke-Zacke-Zicke-Zacke! Hoi-Hoi-Hoi! Loosely translated, it means “down the hatch.”
3. Visit the Festhallen (venues)
This is where you’ll find most of the festivities, including oompah bands, Bavarian dancers and delicious cuisine. Be sure to buy tickets beforehand.
4. Sing German songs
Oktoberfest bonding is about singing. When festivalgoers strike up “Ein Prosit,” be sure to stand up, link arms, sing aloud and hoist your mug. And don’t worry—a sip of beer will help the German lyrics roll right off your tongue.
5. Eat lots of Bavarian food
Tasty Bavarian food favourites include; schweinstaxe (pork knuckles), hendl (roasted chicken), brezel (pretzel) and an entire variety of wursts (sausages).
6. Take a selfie with the festival ambassadors
Onkel Hans, Tante Frieda, Ziggy und Zaggy Steiner and Miss Oktoberfest would love to meet you.
The parade happens on October 8 at 8:30 a.m. and is one of the biggest festival draws. The five-kilometre route winds its way through the streets of Kitchener-Waterloo with more than 100 floats and bands and some 150,000 spectators waving. Click to see the parade route.
8. Visit Doon Heritage Village
After the parade, check out the Thanksgiving Day Fall Harvest event at Doon Heritage Village. It’s a picturesque 60-acre living history village that shows visitors life in the Waterloo Region circa 1914. Enjoy live music and free horse-drawn carriage rides.
9. Learn important Bavarian words
“Ein Bier, bitte!” (“A beer please!”). German beer will be available for the first time this year, thanks to a new partnership with Erdinger Weissbräu, brewed in the heart of Bavaria.
10. Drink beer from a Bierkrug
A Bierkrug is a beer mug or stein, which should be held with one hand.
11. Enjoy lots of Cheers
Prost is German for “cheers.” Make eye contact while toasting and don’t hit the other stein too hard lest you lose some precious liquid.
12. Practice Gemütlichkeit
It’s German for congeniality, or warm friendliness. Beer helps with the Gemütlichkeit.
13. Put on your dancing shoes
Hit the dance floor and polka the night away.
The raffle is courtesy of Pfaff Porsche of London and the prize will be drawn on October 13.
Check out OktoberFEAST where food trucks will be serving up their specialties in Waterloo Public Square.
16. Attend the Kitchener Rangers Oktoberfest Game
On October 5, the OHL Rangers will be sporting commemorative Oktoberfest jerseys as they take on the Saginaw Spirit.
17. Celebrate hockey
Rogers Hometown Hockey premieres Sunday, October 7 from Kitchener. Host Ron McLean will be broadcasting live in his lederhosen and there will be live music, family-friendly activities and NHL alumni appearances. RSVP to the event here.
18. Enter the Great Oktoberfest Barrel Race
Get together a team of four to participate in the annual relay-style keg-rolling race. Or just drink from a barrel and watch the televised race in Uptown Waterloo on October 13.
19. Collect and trade Oktoberfest pins
Hey, it’s a tradition. The commemorative 50th Anniversary pin is available at the official Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest Store.
20. Go to the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market
This is Canada’s largest year-round farmers’ market. It’s located just 15 minutes outside downtown Kitchener and is a dazzling festival of sights, sounds and tastes. Here are six things to eat at the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market.
Train buffs can hop onboard the Waterloo Central Railway at the market for a journey through Mennonite country to the Village of St. Jacobs. Pick your rail coach and experience train travel like a 1950s vacationer.
Take a stroll through the charming Village of St. Jacobs. It really is like stepping back in time, seeming as though nothing much has changed since the town’s Old Order Mennonite settlers arrived here in the early 1800s in Conestoga wagons from Pennsylvania.
23. Visit a Model Railway Museum
Kids, adults and rail hounds will also love the St. Jacobs & Aberfoyle Model Railway Museum. Here you will find, in an elaborate layout that covers 279 square-metres, a scene of amazing detail recreating the great rail era in 1950s Southern Ontario.
24. Do a brewery tour
If you haven’t had enough beer yet, do a brewery tour and tasting at one of Kitchener-Waterloo’s seven craft breweries:
- Abe Erb Brewing Company
- Waterloo Brewing
- Innocente Brewing Company
- Descendants Beer & Beverage Co.
- TWB (Together We’re Bitter)
- Grand River Brewing
- Block Three
25. Drink wine instead of beer
Take a break from the hooplah and make a stop at The Easy Pour Wine Bar, located just west of the Grand River in the quaint village of Blair.
26. Catch some live theatre
There’s plenty of theatre to be experienced at this time of year. Here are some suggestions:
- Man of La Mancha at the Hamilton Family Theatre Cambridge
- Ghost at the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse
- Shear Madness at St. Jacobs Schoolhouse Theatre (a circa-1867 renovated village schoolhouse)
27. Play some games at Bingemans
Visit Bingemans for a free Oktoberfest Family Breakfast on October 6. Afterwards, join a game of indoor beach volleyball, play mini-putt, venture into the 60-acre paintball area or check out Bingemans Kingpin Bowlounge.
28. Still Hungry?
The atmosphere of The Lancaster Smokehouse, or “Lanc” as it is known by locals, is casual with down-home comfort food. The ribs, chicken, brisket and sausages are smoked on premises.
29. Do the Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest Treasure Hunt
The treasure hunt begins on September 24 and lasts until somebody finds the hidden key to King Ludwig’s Treasure Chest to win $3,000. Click here for contest details.
30. See how the Victorians did Thanksgiving at Woodside National Historic Site
Tour the former home of Canada’s 10th prime minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King. From October 5 to 8 and 11 to 14, it will be decked out in Thanksgiving decor so you can see how the Victorians celebrated the season back in 1891.
31. See butterflies at the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory
For a tranquil escape from the festhallen, the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory is a tropical getaway and a nature lover’s dream. See 2,000 free-flying butterflies, cascading waterfalls, 75 species of plants and plenty of birds, bugs, turtles and parrots.
Venture into the Victorian era with a visit to Castle Kilbride in Baden, a designated National Historic Site. After a tour of the luxurious home, you can enjoy high tea and scones under the shady trees on the grounds. You’ll feel like you have stumbled onto the set of Downton Abbey.
33. Go for a paddle
Need some exercise after the food and beer? Canoe and kayak enthusiasts will love getting out on the Grand River. Here’s a list of routes and outfitters.
34. Go for a run
Challenge yourself during the Oktoberfest 5K Fun Run to raise money for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Waterloo.
35. Go for a cycle
Exercise just means room for more food and beer. Cycle through Mennonite Country with the adventure company Grand Experiences.
36. Hang out with bikers during Ride, Dine & Stein
At the Ride, Dine & Stein, motorcyclists from across Ontario will converge on the KW Region on October 6 for an afternoon of entertainment, good food and cheer. Bikes will line the streets of Uptown Waterloo.
37. Blow off some steam at Chicopee Tube Park
The Chicopee Tube Park is an adventure park where you can climb rope courses, get launched into the air on the four-person Euro-bungy, zipline down the 80- and 300-metre runs, or enjoy the thrill of waterless tubing. It’s open on Sundays throughout the fall. Call ahead for reservations.
38. Watch Bavarian dancers
Get ready to be amazed by the Grainbach Folk Dancers from Bavaria.
39. Be a stamp collector
50th Anniversary commemorative stamps are available by the sheet at the Oktoberfest Store.
40. Attend the Oktoberfest Car Show
41. Watch oompah bands
Don’t miss the chance to see a performance by Grammy Award winner Walter Ostanek, “Canada’s Polka King.”
42. Listen to some jazz
43. Buy the 50th anniversary commemorative book
Look for the newly released Oktoberfest commemorative coffee table book by Carol Jankowski and Kathy Storring, which honours the festival’s 50-year history. It’s available at the Oktoberfest Store.
44. Dress the part
Tradition is taken seriously, so pack your leather shorts and low-cut flouncy dresses. They help you feel less like a tourist and make the whole Oktoberfest experience all that more fun.
45. Tips for dressing the part (women’s outfit)
The staple of a woman’s outfit is a tight fitting Bavarian Dirndl dress made up of a bodice, blouse, skirt, and apron. And where the bow on the apron is tied is code—tied on the right means you’re attached while to the left cries single.
46. Tips for dressing the part (men’s outfit)
A typical guy’s outfit will have a button-up shirt, leather lederhosen with suspenders, an alpine hat and sturdy footwear. Add a suit jacket or vest to accent your outfit.
New this year, you can hop on a food tour to experience some of the region’s top restaurants such as Sole and Lou Dawg’s, then the bus will drop you off at Oktoberfesthaus festhalle to continue with even more eating. The tour runs on October 6 and 13.
48. Drink responsibly
It is a long night, so pace yourself by drinking slowly and eating plenty. With this in mind, stick to the beer and leave the shot-skis to the experts!
49. Get a safe (and free!) ride back to your hotel
Oktoberfest provides a safe and convenient transportation alternative through a Free Ride campaign courtesy of Grand River Transit. Check route details and times here.
50. Attend the closing ceremonies
Wrap up the 50th Annual Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest with a bang at the official closing ceremonies on October 13 at Chicopee Haus.