The tourists go to Munich. The locals go to Stuttgart. So they say.Canstatter Wasen is Stuttgart’s annual Fall Volksfest. Because of the beer, music, singing, dancing, and traditional German clothing, Americans have nicknamed it “Stuttgart’s Oktoberfest.” Since moving here in 2017, we have been each year, including this year for opening weekend.
Canstatter Wasen is a must visit for those living in the Kaiserslautern area. Since the tourists flock to Munich, there is a more authentic German feel to Stuttgart’s festival. Many are attracted to it because it’s not as crowded as Munich, it’s closer, easily accessible by train, and you can walk around the festival grounds with a beer (in Munich, alcohol is restricted to permitted areas only… for good reason).The festival is very much like any festival in Germany that you would visit. There is a ferris wheel, a bunch of spinny rides, lots of vendors, and plenty of booths to grab a drink or a tasty treat.Frankly, it may not be worth the day trip if all you want to do is enjoy the rides. You can do that at the Kaiserslautern Kerwe (K-Fest) for much cheaper. But if you are looking to sing at the top of your lungs, stand on a bench while waving a beer Stein, and maybe make a few friends along the way, Stuttgart cannot be defeated.
A day at Canstatter Wasen is the culmination of months of planning. In this post, I hope to give you a few pointers in preparing for your Volksfest or Frühlingsfest (the spring equivalent) adventure.Don’t wait until “festival season” to get a Lederhosen or Dirndl. Plan to drop over €100 on each, but hey, it’s going to last you the next three to four years anyways, right? Men who feel uncomfortable wearing a Lederhosen, or too cheap to buy one 🙋♂️, can opt for just the checkered shirt.
Entry to the festival is free. Tickets to the party tents go on sale about four months in advance. The advantage to purchasing tickets in advance is that you have guaranteed entry into the tent, you will have a spot at a table to eat and drink, and you get your reservation cost back in vouchers (with exception of the cost to ship your bracelets).While anyone can enter the tent, each year I see poor souls who didn’t reserve desperately searching for a place to squeeze in. In addition, if the tent starts to exceed capacity, they will deny you entry without a bracelet.We usually reserve a table for ten in the Göckelesmaier tent. This year, each person paid €42. In return, each person recieved €40 vouchers in food/drinks (the €2 additional covered shipping).You can either reserve from 11am to 4pm, or 4:30pm to 11:30pm. We usually do the earlier time block, because it gives us plenty of time to recover and make it home for a good night’s sleep. Also the later time block is exceptionally crowded, and many people get left at the train platform due to train overcrowding after the 11:30pm exodus.
The best way to get to the festival is by train from the Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof (main train station). The S-Bahn is only a four minute ride, and runs every five to ten minutes from the Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof to Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt. For those choosing to stay overnight, there are plenty of lodging and dining options close to the Hauptbahnhof.If you choose to take the train from Kaiserslautern, you have two train options. The fastest and more expensive way is by taking the ICE train (2hr journey). If you reserve two months out, two people can travel for under €100 roundtrip. If you buy your ticket closer to the day of travel, you will pay significantly more. Another disadvantage to the ICE train is that you must stick to the train that you reserve.If you like to “play things by ear,” then taking the slower regional train may be the option for you. Two people can travel for €52 roundtrip, and the price stays the same no matter how early or late you buy the ticket. You can use the ticket to take any regional train (IRE, RE, RB, S-Bahn), giving you flexibility to decide when to come and go.
The biggest disadvantage to the regional train, is that average travel time from Kaiserslautern is three hours. Additionally, since it’s a cheaper option, the train can get very crowded the closer you get to Stuttgart. This year, we took the regional train. Due to the hordes of people loading the train, it took the train longer than expected to leave each stop. It took us four hours to get to Stuttgart.Once you make it to your spot in the tent, the months of planning and the hectic journey all become forgotten once your hand grabs that first beer Stein. Make sure you bring extra cash, as you will pay for your frequent trips to the bathroom. And while €40 in vouchers seems like a lot, trust me that it disappears quickly! Next thing you know, you’re singing along to Sweet Caroline and humming along to Ein Prösit, while having sucked down three liters of beer and eaten a plate of chicken and pommes, taken a few trips to the bathroom, and are looking for a few bucks to buy a unicorn balloon. Not that we’ve ever done that, but I’m just saying…Last thing to leave you with, here’s a couple pro tips. If you have water, they’ll make you dump it before entering the fest. You also can’t bring bags into the tents, because people like to walk off with the beer Steins. I always bring a small sack backpack that I use to hold all my belongings to and from the fest. To get in, I stuff all my belongings (such as my wallet and portable phone charger) in my pockets, as well as my small sack. Once I leave the tent, I put everything back into my sack. It works for me, so I’m not travelling with stuff all stashed in my pockets.