Feeling the urge to get a little taste of the atmosphere of Munich in late September/early October without traveling to Germany, I went to check out the El Cajon Oktoberfest.
It’s the largest Oktoberfest celebration in San Diego and I was anticipating a day full of holding up large German beers, singing, dancing, mingling with others and reveling to the music of an authentic oompha band.
Well, that did not exactly happen. In fact, I was pretty disappointed in it. Now to be fair, I was there on an overcast Sunday afternoon and not a Friday or Saturday night. I am sure it’s a more lively scene on those nights.
I arrived at about 3 o’clock to the quietest Oktoberfest celebration I had ever experienced. The people were all seated at long picnic tables and were talking so softly you could hear the beer being poured out of the taps. A band was on stage yet playing so quietly I thought they were on mute.
At about 4, a two-man oompha band from Germany took the stage and that did liven the place up a bit but it was not a wild singles scene that I so often associate with Oktoberfest celebrations.
There were only a half-dozen nice-looking girls, for example. All but one seemed to be in a group or on a date. I did make quick conversation with her but then did not see her the rest of the day.
Most of the people appeared to be El Cajon residents. Getting off the trolley, I saw no one in Oktoberfest outfits; in fact I was about the only person at the station. Same thing when I walked up to the festival, which is held at the German-American Societies building. I expected to see crowds of people in costumes and large beer-replica hats walkup up it but there were none. More on how to get there later.
I saw more grey hair than blonde hair and there were more strollers and walkers than single people.
Now that I’ve established the Sunday afternoon crowd – and again, I’m sure it’s far different on a weekend – then I can say that I actually had a pretty decent time.
The entry fee was just $5 (it’s $15 on Fridays and Saturdays) and imported German beers were only $7. I pre-purchased five tokens for $35. I wasn’t hungry but there was German food everywhere and a vendor’s area where one could purchase steins, hats, funny signs to hang in your house (my favorite: beer is cheaper than gas) and even Oktoberfest outfits.
Eventually, I found a bar, too. It’s adjacent to the indoor restrooms. This reminded me of the bar inside the Old World Oktoberfest in Huntington Beach (now THAT is a singles Oktoberfest scene!) which is often the best place to meet people at these events.
I left the El Cajon Oktoberfest thinking that I would like to see it in its full glory, on a weekend night. But it only lasts for two weeks. Old World and the Big Bear Oktoberfest goes on for more than a month.
Next weekend, I plan to check out the Le Mesa Oktoberfest (it’s only one weekend, which is a bit baffling considering all the setup required to put on one of these things). The following weekend there’s one in Ocean Beach at the Pier. Maybe at one of them – and hopefully both – I will get that Oktoberfest atmosphere I am seeking.
How To Get To The El Cajon Oktoberfest
The best way to get to the El Cajon Oktoberfest is to take the Green or Orange line trolley, as there is only a small parking lot and who wants to be driving when beer is involved, anyway. The festival grounds is about two miles away from the station and unfortunately there is no shuttle service.
You can take an Uber/Lyft or even a cab to the grounds or San Diego Metro has a bus that will get you within four blocks of it. It’s the 875 bus and take it to the Washington/Mollison stop (about five minutes). From there go behind you (left on Mollison) and walk until you see the signs.
On the way back, MTS apparently wants to see how many brain cells you have remaining because the sign shows a stop for the 874 bus line when in reality the 875 shows up to it. Just double-check with the driver to make sure he is going to the transit station.
Address: 1017 S Mollison Ave, El Cajon, CA