This comes as no surprise given Kitchener-Waterloo’s long standing German heritage. Historically, the city of Kitchener used to be named Berlin, and while the name has been changed since, the city’s German roots and culture remain strong.
This is something you can see year-round, whether it’s street names of German origin, neighbourhoods such as Olde Berlin Town, or even occasionally hearing people down the street speaking German. That all being said, it makes sense to see such ample attendance at the yearly Oktoberfest celebrations.
It doesn’t stop there, however. During the height of the festival, there is an estimated 700,000 people in attendance from both Kitchener-Waterloo as well as the surrounding area, plus visitors from the US and worldwide. Prost! (that means “cheers”, by the way)
So what all happens at Oktoberfest in Kitchener-Waterloo? There are quite a few activities to choose from. The city comes alive with cultural events, music, traditional Bavarian garb, and even a full on parade.
Streets in the downtown area are closed off to make room for the celebrations and the masses of people.
Going beyond the city’s core, the local German event venues open their doors to host enthusiastic party-goers all over town.
Let’s take a closer look at the activities we can expect to see during the festival. Oktoberfest kicks off with the ceremonial keg tapping at Kitchener City Hall. Typically this is done on the Friday before the Thanksgiving long weekend.
On the Saturday you can attend the Pancake Breakfast in Uptown Waterloo and later participate in the keg-rolling Barrel Race. Other sights and sounds include Rocktoberfest, which features live rock music as well as traditional German music at the Queensmount Arena.
If that does not tire you out, you can attend any of the numerous party nights at clubs and venues in the university and uptown areas of Waterloo. All of the student hot spots in Waterloo go full Bavarian for a week and so do their clientele.
Last but not least, we have the famous Oktoberfest Parade as well as the Oktoberfest Treasure Hunt, which we will cover in more detail later on.
What is the Best Tent or Venue for Oktoberfest?
The most popular venues for Oktoberfest are the beer tents (found in the main festival areas), and the traditional German venues around town. Kitchener-Waterloo has four venues which are staples of German heritage and, understandably so, huge attractions during Oktoberfest.
They are also called Festhalls or Festhallen.
The Alpine Club is a wonderful German dancehall located at 464 Maple Ave. in Kitchener. It was founded in 1953 as a social club and has since hosted a multitude of events ranging from dances, to weddings, stag & does, business events, and of course the one and only Oktoberfest.
Along with all of the above, The Alpine Club specializes in delicious traditional German food.
The Concordia Club is located at 429 Ottawa St. S, in Kitchener. To say that this venue is a piece of history would be quite the understatement. This club dates all the way back to 1873, carrying with it a stunning legacy.
It originated from the creation of a male choir group called the “Deutsch Kanadischer Sängerbund" (also known as the German-Canadian Choir Society).
Since then it has grown into a full blown social club, owning their own venue as well as a recreational plot of land called The Concordia Farm.
The club celebrated it’s 100th anniversary in 1973 and (at this point) is around halfway to its second centennial. This is the amount of history and culture we’re talking about when we discuss The Concordia, and it certainly feels like it when you attend their Oktoberfest festivities.
The Schwaben Club is located at 1668 King St. E in Kitchener. They have been operating in the area for 85 years, hosting events big and small, while featuring delicious food and a great traditional German aesthetic.
The Transylvania Club is located at 41 River Rd. Unit B in Kitchener. This club dates back to 1951 when it was founded by German families who had moved to Canada. It is the proud creation of a hard working and tightly knit community.
While they did not have many material resources at the time, they were undoubtedly rich with culture and ambition. Through determination and hard work, they established the clubhouse and continued to maintain and develop it over the decades.
Leading up to present times, it has grown into a cultural and social landmark for Kitchener-Waterloo.
The Oktoberfest Parade is the most popular parade happening during the Canadian Thanksgiving Weekend, which gives it a unique spotlight on national Canadian television and also some coverage in the US.
This has lead to its ever-growing popularity, attracting approximately 150,000 people from Kitchener-Waterloo as well as the surrounding areas every year.
Accompanying the parade, you will see the Oktoberfest mascot Onkel Hans and his counterpart Tante Frieda.
Oktoberfest Treasure Hunt
The Oktoberfest Treasure Hunt has been a much anticipated tradition of the festival for over 19 years. Businesses and sponsors from all over the city team up to run this exciting activity which promises a $3000 cash prize to the best treasure hunter out there.
The premise is that they need to find old King Ludwig’s hidden treasure. Over the course of the festival, clues are released by local radio stations and news outlets. Participating businesses also put up posters featuring clues for the hunt.
The excitement and suspense has made this tradition grow in popularity and it has stuck ever since.
Finally, while exploring all the festivities of the week, you should definitely make a stop at the Oktoberfest Store. It is the one-stop-shop for all of your Oktoberfest party attire.
Not only will the store make sure you are properly equipped for Bavarian fun, it actually goes a long way toward supporting not-for-profit organizations in the community.
Oktoberfest is an important part of Kitchener-Waterloo’s economy, attracting numerous people and bringing patrons to businesses all around town.
Along with this, the festival also partners with NGOs and helps fundraise for important causes. Sales from the Oktoberfest Store help in these fundraising endeavours and also make you look smashing as you enjoy the festival.