Munich isn’t the only place with a spectacular Oktoberfest. This annual celebration of German heritage, food, lederhosen, and beer happens throughout the United States—and one of the best events is Oktoberfest in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
That’s right. During the month of October, the “Gateway to the Smoky Mountains” is also the gateway to giant pretzels, boots full of beer, and fun for the whole family. Add in the fact that this mountain town is the perfect place for classic October activities like leaf peeping and spooky stories, and you’ve got a must-do autumn adventure.
What You Need to Know
When is Oktoberfest Gatlinburg?
This year’s Oktoberfest takes place from September 27 through November 3. That’s more than a month of delicious Bavarian food, authentic music, and of course, plenty of singalongs. The festival is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week.
The Bier Garten is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays, and noon until 6 p.m. on Sundays.
The outdoor games and inflatables are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
Where is the festival?
The festival takes place every year at Ober Gatlinburg, a ski resort and amusement park. It’s located in central Gatlinburg right off the Parkway/Route 441. The town of Gatlinburg is just 8 miles south of Pigeon Forge, home of Dollywood and other area attractions, and is a gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s a must-see if you’re in the area and is a great destination for family fun.
How much is Oktoberfest Gatlinburg?
There is no cover charge for Oktoberfest at Ober Gatlinburg, and all entertainment, singalongs, and performances are free. However, there is a fee for parking, and if you choose to take the aerial tramway, there is a cost for that as well. Food and beverages are also additional.
German-style beers like Hofbrau Oktoberfest and Sam Adam’s Oktoberfest are $5 each. A $20 beer card gets you either four 16-ounce beers or eight 7-ounce beers. A 24-ounce boot of beer is $15, with $7 refills—that’s a lot of beer! Food prices will vary depending on what you choose, but range from about $10 for Bavarian pretzels to $15 for an entrée.
What to Eat and Drink at Oktoberfest?
Schnitzel and bratwurst and sausage, oh my! During the festival, the restaurant at Ober Gatlinburg, called Seasons of Ober, switches to its Oktoberfest menu. You’ll find classics like neujahrsbrezel (Bavarian pretzels with cheese sauce and mustard), frikadeller (German meatballs on pretzel bread), and wienerschnitzel (fried pork or chicken served with potato salad). Less adventurous festival-goers can order up salads, BLTs, and pasta dishes, and there’s a kids’ menu, too.
What pairs perfectly with German food? Beer! Gatlinburg Oktoberfest features an outdoor beer garden (or bier garten, to keep with the German theme), for those 21 and over. There’s something for everyone here. Last year’s festival had Coors Light, Yuengling, Heineken, Corona, St. Pauli Girl, and Guinness. Of course, we recommend the German-style beers! Franziskaner, Schulz Bräu Dunkel and German Pilsner, Hofbrau Original and Oktoberfest, and Leinenkugel Oktoberfest were available last year, and you can look forward to more of the same. Bonus: Beer lovers should attend on Saturdays to talk to the featured brewer of the weekend.
What to Do at the Festival
Oktoberfest in Gatlinburg is more than bier gartens and amazing food—really! Bring your lederhosen or dirndl, because you’ll find plenty of people in festive dress for this event—especially the band. The Smoky Mountain Oompah Band will play free live shows throughout the month, including traditional folk dances, yodeling, and singalongs. Shows are at 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday; 1:00, 3:00, and 5:00 p.m. on Tuesdays; and 1:00, 3:00, 5:00, and 7:00 p.m. Friday through Sunday. Don’t miss it!
There are tons of games for kids and adults, including bounce houses and more. There’s even free face painting on Saturday and Sunday. You can also buy Ober Gatlinburg tickets to get access to the park’s rides, mini golf, alpine slide, rock wall, and more. Purchase activities individually or buy a wristband for the best value.
On your way out, don’t forget to pick up your souvenirs. Beer lovers must visit the Beer Necessities kiosk for their official Oktoberfest stein and other accessories. You’ll find plenty more souvenirs inside the mall, too.
Getting There and Getting Around
Flights to Gatlinburg will actually take you to McGhee Tyson Airport (TYS), south of Knoxville. From there, it’s about a 40 mile drive east to Gatlinburg. The easiest way to get there is to rent a car. Just head to the rental car area on the lower level near baggage claim. With a rental car, you’ll also have your own wheels to explore amazing day trips around Gatlinburg and take leisurely drives through the gorgeous Great Smoky Mountains.
Once you’ve got your rental car, you’re all set to get around town. If you’re wondering how to get to Ober Gatlinburg, it’s easy. You can drive or take the aerial tram from downtown. To drive directly to the park, turn onto Ski Mountain Road from Parkway/Route 441 in downtown Gatlinburg. Follow the road to the top—when the road stops, you’re there! Parking is $8 per car at the resort.
Parking at the resort is limited, so taking the aerial tram from downtown is a better idea during busy times like Oktoberfest, especially if you’re attending on a weekend. Parking for the tram is located at 1001 Parkway and is $8 per vehicle. Tram tickets cost $15 for adults and $12 for kids. If you’ll be indulging in all that delicious Oktoberfest beer, your best bet is to take a ride share to the tram and hop on. It’s worth it for the most scenic ride in the Smoky Mountains—and a stress-free day.
Another fun way to get around town is on the Gatlinburg Trolley. There are over 100 stops around town, and it’s an easy way to get to famous spots like the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community. The trolley can even take you as far as Dollywood and into the Smoky Mountains to the Laurel Falls trailhead for a nice hike.
Where to stay in Gatlinburg?
Where to stay in Gatlinburg depends on what you want out of your vacation. Downtown Gatlinburg is always a good bet, with plenty of hotels to choose from, including many that are walking distance from the Ober Gatlinburg aerial tram. You’ll be close to other attractions as well as shopping and dining, so you’ll get the whole Gatlinburg experience.
On the other hand, a stay up in the mountains provides a serene, secluded getaway. You’ll be surrounded by nature, which is an especially gorgeous landscape in the fall, when the leaves turn vibrant red and orange. You can book hotels in Gatlinburg complete with rustic décor to give you that cozy mountain feeling.
What to do in Gatlinburg?
October is an amazing time to visit Gatlinburg—the air is crisp, but not too cool, the leaves are changing, and there’s tons to do. Here are the best fairs, festivals, and other attractions to check out.
Mid-October to early November is the peak of colorful foliage in Great Smoky National Park, making this an excellent time to visit Gatlinburg. Take a drive or bike ride through Cades Cove in the park, or get adventurous and view the trees from the zipline or skybridge at Anakeesta theme park.
Smoky Mountain Harvest Festival
We told you Gatlinburg goes all out in the fall, and this festival proves it. From September 6 to November 25, 2019, the town is decked out with life-size scarecrows, hay, pumpkins, and all things autumn.
Gatlinburg Farmers Market
Celebrate the season with a visit to the Gatlinburg Farmers Market for some fresh fall veggies and baked goods. It runs through October 12, on Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.—don’t miss it!
Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair
Discover unique arts and crafts from more than 180 skilled craftspeople from the local area and around the country—and get your holiday shopping done early. The fair takes place October 10 to 27, 2019, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the convention center.
Ripley’s Fright Nights
Get into the spirit of the season at Ripley’s Haunted Adventure, which gets extra spooky during Fright Nights. There’s a character parade and show, and it’s happening on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays this year from October 4 to 27.
You can visit the mansion year-round, but visiting in the fall lends it an extra-haunted atmosphere. Take a terrifying tour through secret passageways and chilly chambers—you’ll scream your head off!
Need more ideas? We know just what you need to spend a weekend in Gatlinburg at any time of year.
Oktoberfest in Gatlinburg is just one of the many events that make this quaint Tennessee town a must-see autumn destination. However, it’s the only one where your lederhosen won’t get a second glance. This year, embrace the season—and the beer—in Gatlinburg. Prost!