IT’S TIME to plan for fall’s most beloved, if gluttonous, celebration: Oktoberfest. One of the best will happen in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on September 23–24. How seriously do the organizers, the Edelweiss Club of Grand Rapids, take it? They import an entire truckload of Erdinger draft beer from a family-owned brewery just north of Munich. Much of the food, like sauerbraten, sausages with apple sauerkraut, potato pancakes, and strudel, is made with local ingredients from family recipes passed down from Germany.
It makes sense that Grand Rapids—which bills itself as Beer City USA—would go all in. Michigan’s second-largest city has one of the highest brewery-to-resident ratios in the U.S. Grand Rapids reminds many visitors of a pint-sized (get it?) Chicago, with lots of cool, working-class neighborhoods that have their own unique watering holes.
The keg-tossing and stein-holding competitions (both trickier than they sound) are fan favorites, as are the doxies racing in the Dachshund Dash. Lederhosen or dirndls aren’t mandatory, but donning festive garb is definitely encouraged, especially when dancing to the polka bands.
Work off that wiener schnitzel by following the Grand River south to Millennium Park. There you can rent a kayak or walk along the paved paths winding through wildflower-filled meadows. Or head to the nearby Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park (meijergardens.org) to stroll alongside striking works of art.