The further you stray from North America, the more you will discover far different views of alcohol consumption around children.
In Germany specifically, beer gardens and beer halls are woven into the culture of the region. While I would not necessarily suggest taking your young children to Oktoberfest, because your idea of drinking beer for days is hardly a family holiday, there is no reason to hesitate in taking them to a beer hall or garden.
(Sept. 2017 Update: For anyone also wondering “Should I take my kids to Oktoberfest?” I just learned that more and more the Munich Oktoberfest is striving to accomidate families especially during the day. It really is just a huge fair and even has a petting zoo these days. Just make it about the relaxed family time, not hours everyday day binge drinking.)
WHEN IN BAVARIA, DO AS THE BAVARIANS DO
A story was shared with us on a recent trip to Germany by a woman whose family used to take a picnic basket along with a pressed table-cloth and their finest cutlery to go and eat in the beer garden every weekend. As long as you purchase drinks, you are free to use the table for as long as you like.
We visited in late October and the weather was not ideal for sitting outside and eating and drinking for a couple of hours so we did not visit any beer gardens. We did visit a couple of Bavarian beer halls. These establishments can range from rowdy football fans gathering for beer and sausages after a big match, to a more subdued family restaurant atmosphere.
The food at beer halls in our experience was surprisingly good and reasonably priced. Sausages and potatoes were prevalent as were other dishes with large portions of pork and ever-present pretzels. That is not to say that no options were available for people who were not happy with beer and sausage. We had a wonderful vegetarian spätzle with cheese and onions in one of the halls we visited. The beer halls we visited even had children’s menus.
There was beer and it was delicious. There was also wine for those so inclined and a wide range of non-alcoholic beverages. No one would feel like they would have to drink, but in Germany more than any other place I have visited in Europe, the beer is substantially cheaper than soda in most places.
One of the halls we visited was very boisterous with lots of “exuberant” football fans. It was packed to the rafters, but everyone was hungry and it was an available restaurant. We were not the only people with young children there and our kids didn’t mind the raucous crowd. The second hall was more subdued but had a live polka band that the kids thought was great. At no point, in either place, were we uncomfortable about our kids being there.
The Germans have no hesitation about taking their kids to beer halls so why should you. Travel is about experiencing different cultures and that applies to children as well. If children see a healthy attitude toward alcohol consumption and that parents have a glass of wine or a beer with dinner, this has been proven to help foster a healthy attitude toward alcohol later in life.
A last note, I hope I don’t need to clarify this, but hanging out for hours drinking with your kids present, is probably not an ideal holiday for anyone in your family.
To find out more about our travels in Germany, you know what to do.
Happy and safe travels.
This post can also be viewed, along with some other great family travel posts at #fearlessfamtrav.