Remember the years of past when you go launch an inflatable from the shores of Lake Washington and get plastered floating right in the south turn of the Seafair Hydro Races? And then things changed.
Well, there still are a few festivals left in Washington where everyone is getting plastered and the cops and the insurance companies seem to have not ruined the event yet. Even smoking areas are outside in the middle of the action instead of put off in some shameful corner area. Wow.
#1 - Yes, there is more than just beer. They serve wine too. No hard alcohol.
#2 - No, you don't have to wear a German outfit. About 20% at best do and they are fun to look at.
#3 - The line to get in is huge when it opens at noon and in the evening around 8 so unless you like standing in lines, enter between 2 and 7. There usually is no re-entry line so you can come and go as you please.
#4 - Yes it isn't cheap, but it isn't super expensive either (depending on how much you drink.) $10 to get in is reasonable considering there is music and dancing entertainment. Everything is $5 a drink which is about what you pay at a bar anyway and very reasonable compared to a Seahawks or Mariners game. But you can't get pitchers and save money. They do have dedicated booths selling tickets by credit card so it's not cash only.
#5 - Newsflash: This event caters to robust style beer drinkers, Whomever gives the beer selection a thumbs down, doesn't belong at this event in the first place then. There is a large selection of GERMAN STYLE beer, at least 10 kinds I saw, but aside from the Hefeweizen, you aren't going to find Budweiser, Coors, Red Hook, or Corona here. Duh. We liked the dark "Dunkel" as it was very smooth despite the dark color and the Ayinger had the biggest kick (over 7%). You can always go with a Hefe for something lighter.
#6 - Food isn't gourmet but neither is the price.. $5 for a bratwurst, pulled pork, bbq chicken, etc. is a pretty good deal. If you want something more upscale, go outside the gate and pay tourist trap prices at the restaurants in the heart of town.
#7 - Virtually everyone is in a great mood and very social. Can't remember ever seeing one fight (not that they never happen - but surprising considering how much alcohol is consumed - the red "Alcohol Police" must help prevent this.) So don't ruin it for the rest of us and go when you are in a bad mood or don't know your utmost limit on your drinking before you turn into an a**hole. Also, I have young kids (6-13 age range) and as others have pointed out, I don't see any reason to bring a family in here. Not that you can't, but there's really not that much (if anything) to see and do targeted at young children in there.
Bottom Line: A must do event for anyone that has any affinity for beer (and isn't a snob about it), the German culture, or just likes large events with a lot of drunk people. Leavenworth itself is a must see. But I must admit, the novelty of the festival and the somewhat cheezy touristy town wains ever so slightly with each year that I age. I have a finite number of brain cells to lose and my liver can only take so much but I still make the trek.
Unless you are very drunk and brave, you will probably do like most and spend the evening standing or sitting watching the old folk dance while trying to see who's the drunkest and maybe strike up a conversation with one of them. It's definitely fun, but after going several years, like most things, it can get a little "old" - especially when the morning hangover arrives. Ouch. But to each their own. It really is what you want to make of it.
The main downside though is that it essentially starts to shut down (stop serving) at midnight (if I remember right) and there are no hopping places to go after. We tried The Loft but they were closing at 1. Maybe we need to look harder next time.