Can't make it all the way to Germany for Oktoberfest? Although it's the polar opposite of Munich in just about every possible way, Las Vegas is a pretty good place to quaff beer, munch German cuisine and shout "Prost" during the month of October, from The Strip and Downtown, and in local bars, clubs and restaurants.
It's even got its own Hofbräuhaus -- a Las Vegas branch of the famous Munich beer hall -- in a Bavarian-style building on at Paradise Rd. and Harmon Ave. The annual Oktoberfest runs a full six weeks at the Hofbräuhaus, starting early on Sept. 15, with German beers, traditional foods like bratwurst, schnitzel and schweinshaxe (pork knuckles), stein-holding contests and the bands Die Kreuzberg Rebellen from Germany and Adler aus Österreich from Austria.
Hofbräuhaus is also renowned for its celebrity keg tappings during Oktoberfest. Tiger tamers Siegfried & Roy, "Girl Next Door" Holly Madison, and American Idol winner Taylor Hicks are among those who have christened the kegs.
Downtown celebrates suds on Oct. 20, as the 7th annual Downtown Brew Festival brings more than 200 craft brews from 60 breweries to the edge of Glitter Gulch. The festival also showcases local culinary stars and live music during an event that runs from 4 to 9 p.m. at Clark County Amphitheater.
Want to venture off-strip? The Galleria at Sunset in suburban Henderson also gets an early start -- an Oktoberfest celebration on Sept. 29 that features polka dancing, beer stein races, a costume contest (bring your lederhosen!) and more than 15 German and local beers.
It's always Oktoberfest at Cafe Berlin, the best place for traditional German food in Las Vegas. Don't let the architecture fool you: behind that modern American facade it's all German, all the time. Try the potato pancakes with applesauce and sour cream, "Gypsy style" schnitzel, and a wurst plate with four kinds of sausage. Wash it all down with four different German beers.
Among other great places to sip suds in Las Vegas, October or anytime, are Ellis Island Brewery and Beerhaus at The Park. Hailed as one of Nevada's top craft breweries, Ellis Island (in the hotel-casino of the same name) will offer a selection of special Oktoberfest beers including its own IPAs, stout, amber and traditional German weiss -- use any or all to work up the courage to sing from the 10,000-song-strong karaoke menu. Beerhaus offers 21 craft brews, as well as pork, sausage and pretzel dishes that complement the amber nectar. It's located at The Park MGM, a snazzy reincarnation of the old Monte Carlo hotel-casino.