Every fall, millions of visitors descend upon Munich, Germany, to celebrate Oktoberfest, Germany's famous beer-and-preztel-laden celebration. The festival—the largest of any festival in the world, with over 6 million participants—began in 1810, when Crown Prince Ludwig (later King Ludwig I) married Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. The newlyweds invited all the citizens of Munich to celebrate their nuptials outside of the city gates, on a field now named Theresienwiese (Therese's fields). The party was such a hit that the future king and queen decided they wanted to recreate it every year. Oktoberfest has been held at the Theresienwiese every year since, with the exception of 1813 (when Bavaria was engaged in the Napoleonic Wars).
Munich may be home to the original Oktoberfest (which, despite its name, occurs each year from late September through the first weekend in October) but it's not the only fall celebration of German culture. If you can't make it to Bavaria this year—or want to try a festival with smaller crowds—here are eight alternatives.
Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
If you're looking for the world's second-largest Oktoberfest, you'll have to go beyond German borders: the biggest Oktoberfest outside of Munich takes place each year in the Ontario twin cities of Kitchener-Waterloo (Kitchener was named Berlin from 1833 until 1916 because of the large number of German immigrants migrating to the city). At last year's Oktoberfest, 700,000 visitors consumed more than 50,000 sausages and 25,000 pretzels. But Kitchener-Waterloo's Oktoberfest is more than good fun for visitors—it's an economic boost for the cities. Last year, the festival generated an estimated $21 million in economic activity.