Not drinking at Oktoberfest is no big deal.
Although you’ve probably heard much to the contrary, if you don’t drink beer and find yourself headed to the festival, it’s still pretty easy to have a blast.
I don’t like beer. Not one bit.
Why does beer taste bad to me?
I’ve been to breweries before to see the actual process of how it’s created, but they might as well have put some pasta in a blender and slopped in down in front of me. That’s what it tastes like to me.
A spaghetti smoothie.
Cut to my forever travel companion Smoky suggesting we go to Europe in the fall. The number one thing she wanted to do was visit Oktoberfest in Munich. She’s a beer aficionado, meanwhile I gag when I smell it.
At first I was like “Noooo way. No thanks. Nope. Not gonna happen.” But I really wanted to go to Europe with her. And Oktoberfest was one of her “If I don’t see this, I’m gonna die” things on the trip. So I took a page out of my traveling with pals survival guide and agreed to go, knowing that if my friend would enjoy herself, it would be worth it.
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I read quite a few blogs for Oktoberfest tips before going, but nearly all of them made it sound like a day of debauchery that would leave those wishing to stay sober at Oktoberfest bored to tears and irritated at their sloppy companions. One literally said that those not drinking at Oktoberfest would be “SOL.”
I completely disagree.
To clarify, I do drink, I just don’t like how beer tastes (or wine…or champagne for that matter). But, to those of you don’t drink at all for religious or personal reasons, you can still have fun at Oktoberfest if your group wants to go!
Here’s How to Enjoy Not Drinking at Oktoberfest:
- Enjoy the Oktoberfest Drinks Other Than Beer.
Radlers are the name of the drink of beer mixed with lemonade. But you can just get the good stuff by itself! The lemonade they serve at Oktoberfest is actually basically sprite, but that doesn’t mean it’s not delicious. It costs between five to seven Euros for a decent sized bottle, so if you sip slowly, you can pace your friends and their beer steins.
There are tons of Oktoberfest drinks other than beer, including the aforementioned lemonade, water, coke, and other sodas.
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It can be weird to be sitting there without a beer stein in your hand while your entire table yells prost every three seconds and clinks their glasses together, sloshing beer everywhere. So to have fun and join in while not drinking at Oktoberfest…
- Take the Menu out of the Display Glass and Use it to Toast.
There are beer steins just chilling on tables in a few of the tents. They usually have silverware or a menu (all in German…sometimes with pictures) in them. If you feel left out, you can empty it and use it to clink with your table mates. Another option is to hang onto a friend’s finished stein instead of giving it back to the waitress right away.
I did this when Smoky and I moved from our first tent of the day the Augustiner-Festhalle into the Löwenbräu-Festhalle since there weren’t “menu steins” on the table, as it was a bit more rowdy.
No one really noticed that I wasn’t drinking. In fact, when they saw “my stein” was empty, they kept pouring some of their beer into it.
All in the generous spirit of Oktoberfest, but internally, I was still like “blech.”
- Enjoy the Food Options at Oktoberfest.
If you’d like something to do with your hands, pass the time, or you’re just hungry while not drinking at Oktoberfest, dig into the delicious Bavarian food!
Just don’t do what Smoky did and tip five Euro on a three Euro pretzel, as buying food from the “pretzel people” walking around the Oktoberfest tents is never as competitive as ordering a drink, so small tips are okay, as you’re not tipping for more service, but rather as a courtesy.
I had major food envy as a watched plated after plate of schnitzel, sausage, and potatoes parade out of the kitchen, but I was saving the cash I had for the carnival rides, so I stuck with sharing Smoky’s accidentally expensive pretzel.
- Ride the Carnival Rides at Theresienwiese.
My favorite part of the day was going on carnival rides with a very intoxicated Smoky. She took it like a champ and even though I hadn’t had any alcohol, I think I was more nauseous then her! The rides at Oktoberfest are kind of pricy, ranging from three Euro for the tilt-a-wirl and swings really high in the air rides (does anyone know the actual names for these things?) to nine Euro for a 90 second roller coaster featuring the Olympic Rings.
Getting out to explore Theresienwiese to play on the rides was a nice break from the slightly claustrophobic feel of the tents, something that’s kind of exaggerated when you’re sober at Oktoberfest. There’s lots of families, teenagers on dates, and older tourists judging the younger ones stumbling around, making it an eclectic and interesting atmosphere.
- Sober at Oktoberfest? People watch!
Making friends at Oktoberfest was my favorite part of going! Alcohol is said to be a social lubricant, but it works just fine one-sided, so if you’re having a sober Oktoberfest, you won’t be lonely!
In Augustiner-Festhalle, Smoky and I shared a table with a group of rowdy Italian actors from Milan. Even though they spoke no English, their friendliness and my two semesters of basic Italian made us fast friends. We also chatted with a Hungarian woman and her German daughter, as well as an American from Seattle who met his German wife while at Oktoberfest many years ago.
Y’all knoooooow that story had me hyped. I was like “Omg yes y’all. Today’s the day. Where’s my German prince AT!”
In Löwenbräu-Festhalle, we met some with a few of Smoky’s friends from work, which was great because it had a more frat house-ish feel (read: loud and crowded), so it would’ve been harder to talk if we didn’t kind of already know each other.
Even if you don’t chat with too many people outside your group at Oktoberfest, seeing everyone walking around in their Dirndls and Lederhosen (or with gingerbread cookies around their necks) is still fun.
Final Thoughts on Staying Sober at Oktoberfest
Obviously, if being around buzzed people or lots of alcohol in general is going to be detrimental or difficult for you, don’t go to Oktoberfest. There’s lots of things in Munich to enjoy while you’re friends are at the festival like the Deutsches Museum and Marienplatz.
But, if you’re like me and just prefer not to drink beer, or even just don’t feel like drinking that particular day, not drinking at Oktoberfest doesn’t have to be a boredom sentence.
I had a blast and would even go again.
Have you been to Oktoberfest?
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