If you could have only one dessert the rest of your life, what would you choose? For many of us, it is the cool, confectionary creation that tastes perfect on a hot summer day: ice cream! The flavors are endless. The way it’s served varies from shop to shop: sugar cone, waffle cone, cup, or even a traditional cake cone. It can take you back to your childhood with the flavor of bubblegum or entice your mature palate with a little libation added in.
Ice cream is the perfect cap to any meal and makes your vacation a little sweeter. The top pick takes us to southern California, where it’s ice cream season all year long!
1. Cali Cream Homemade Ice Cream (Winner)
San Diego, California
Cali Cream Homemade Ice Cream is the cream of this crop. This shop offers more than 55 flavors every day. You can try the popular Almond Joy or confetti cake. The chocolate-dipped cake cone covered in sprinkles makes your dessert Instagram-worthy. And if you like ice cream, but your stomach does not, they have dairy-free, sugar-free, and vegan options.
Another big hit is the ice cream flights. You can order up to four flavors in one bowl. What a clever idea! Another must sample is the Thick Scoop Dogg Shake. It’s a milkshake with an extra scoop of ice cream. This could be a shareable option (if you find it necessary!). This delectable shop is locally owned and operated in San Diego, with two locations in Encinitas.
2. Double Dips Ice Creamery
North Platte, Nebraska
Pull up a chair and spend a relaxing stop at Double Dips Ice Creamery. This quaint, rustic shop scoops up some delightful options like black cherry, peanut butter fudge, and espresso. The sundaes are as unique as their names. The Buffalo Bill Cody starts with peanut butter fudge ice cream and is covered with warm peanut butter fudge sauce topped with pecans. You can also tempt your tastebuds with your favorite ice cream piled high between two homemade cookies.
In addition to creamy creations, Double Dips serves up homemade pies, fudge, and other delightful treats. The store is closed on Mondays, but open the rest of the week ready to serve you during your stay in North Platte.
3. The STIL
The STIL, short for The Sweetest Things In Life, clearly tops the list for its modern take on ice cream. Founded in 2017, this ice cream spot quickly became Boise’s must-stop for its unique flavors, vegan options, and booze-infused creations. The STIL pairs local and regional beer and wine with their ice creams. This creative approach earned them national attention and more than one thousand 5 star reviews.
Their mountain location is the source of their flavor names. You might want to try Fresh Powder (vanilla cream cheese), Idaho Wilderness (lavender and berries), and Summer Hike (strawberry sorbet). If you’re looking for those adult-only options, why not sample Highway 1 (vanilla cream ale with toffee and butterscotch) or Parachuting Beavers (peanut butter stout with peanut butter and chocolate)?
The STIL also makes frozen paw prints and dog bone treats from peanut butter, pumpkin, and banana for your favorite furry travel companion.
4. Rhea’s Ice Cream
New Braunfels, Texas
Our quest to find the best ice cream across the country takes us to the Lone Star State. Rhea’s Ice Cream in New Braunfels, Texas, is ready to show you that goat cheese and ice cream can go together! The clever chefs dish up delicious offerings, including goat cheese and raspberry jam, strawberry Nutella, and vegan avocado coconut.
5. Amy’s Ice Creams
Texas is also home to my personal favorite, Amy’s Ice Creams. I lived there for a stint in the ’90s, and Amy’s, in my humble ice cream-loving opinion, is one of the best. While you can get your standard favorites, it’s the world-famous Mexican Vanilla that is worth having shipped halfway across the country. The one-of-a-kind wedding cake-like flavor comes from crossbreeding a traditional Madagascar vanilla bean with a Mexican orchid. I advise mixing in KitKats. You won’t be disappointed! It is Amy’s top seller.
Now if you are more on the adventurous side, try All Thai’d Up. This ice cream awakens your taste buds by blending ginger, fresh basil, and coconut flavors. Or if you like ice cream for breakfast, why not try a scoop of Big Boy Breakfast, which features maple syrup, ground cinnamon, and chunks of waffle cone swirled into a sweet cream base?
6. Roxy’s Ice Cream Social
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
The owner of Roxy’s Ice Cream Social has a favorite on the menu, but it’s not her customers’ first choice. Raena Mutz says she picks the strawberries and cream every time. This colorful ice cream parlor makes its ice cream with the freshest ingredients and carefully crafts each flavor. Most customers come in for a scoop of the salted caramel. You might also want to try this summer’s favorite: cherry lime.
Roxy’s, named after the owners’ dog, also whips up delicious floats with Roxy’s cane sugar sodas and your favorite ice cream. The cookie sandwiches are also a must-order when stopping by Roxy’s in Oklahoma City.
7. The Creole Creamery
New Orleans, Louisiana
Do you have what it takes to be a member of the Tchoupitoulas Hall of Fame at The Creole Creamery? Bring your appetite to this award winner in New Orleans. The Tchoupitoulas is a sundae as big as its name. Check this out: It’s made with eight scoops of ice cream and your choice of eight toppings served in grand fashion with whipped cream, cherries, and wafers. If you can finish this off, you will be forever immortalized on the Creamery’s hall of fame plaque. The sundae is available at both of their locations, but to take the challenge, you will need to head Uptown.
Know that this sweet spot is known for so much more than a ginormous sundae. Summertime means you can sample a cucumber sorbet. This creamy concoction blends the coolness of cucumbers with lemon juice, mint, and a splash of elderflower liqueur. Or why not order up a scoop of Street Corn? This summer variation combines corn, cotija cheese, and cayenne pepper with a swirl of key lime curd. You have to try it to understand its complexity and deliciousness.
8. Clementine’s Naughty and Nice Creamery
St. Louis, Missouri
The Gateway City has its share of unique chilly treats including the birth of the ice cream cone. It was during the 1904 World’s Fair that ice cream’s best friend was introduced. And ice cream has come a long way here, as evidenced by Clementine’s Naughty and Nice Creamery. The name itself should get you in the door.
Growing up, Tamara Keefe’s family created a special tradition after church on Sundays, making homemade ice cream with a hand-cranked maker. Now the self-proclaimed “flavor temptress” has four decadent ice cream shops sprinkled throughout Saint Louis.
We asked a few locals about their favorite flavors. “I love the Maple Bourbon with Salted Candied Pecans and Italian Butter Cookie. But my sons always get Blue Moon and Midnight Pleasures. And I’m not kidding when I say that I’ve never had a bad flavor. One time, I even tried one with cheese and it was great!” Missy Glassmaker, TravelAwaits’ Senior VP, commented between bites.
9. Mount Desert Island Ice Cream
Bar Harbor, Maine
We go from the Midwest to the Northeast and land at Mount Desert Island Ice Cream in Bar Harbor. Former President Barack Obama put this little shop on the map in 2010 during a family vacation. The President and former first lady taste tested quite a few before settling on toasted coconut and chocolate.
You can try out the Obamas’ favorites or sample one of the extravagant flavors. The Dude is very popular with its white chocolate and bergamot mixture. Or sample lemon poppy berry jam or the sour cherry sorbet. The ice cream and sorbets are made daily, so call ahead to make sure your favorite is ready to be scooped! You can explore Mount Desert in five locations worldwide, including Masumoto, Japan. You can see the menus from all of their locations on their website.
10. Graeter’s Ice Cream Co.
Small batch and family-run are the names of the game at Graeter’s Ice Cream Co. This Ohio-based ice cream chain is headquartered in Cincinnati. It started in 1870 with two ice cream carts and has since expanded to 50 retail locations. But what makes this ice cream unique is the attention to flavor, detail, and chocolate chips.
Graeter’s unique chips were invented by the owner’s son Paul when he blended batches of chocolate into freezing ice cream. Graeter’s takes pride in their variety of chocolate chip flavors. You will find everything from the traditional chocolate chip and Buckeye Blitz Chocolate Chip to salted caramel chocolate chip. If sundaes are more your speed, you’ll want to try the Cookie Monster or 1870 Tower. After a trip to Graeter’s, you can even order a party in a box with your favorite flavors.
11. Kone Kompany
Kone Kompany carries Dreyer’s ice cream, but we have a feeling this family-owned shop won votes for its other delicious sweet treats, too. Sip on a specialty milkshake, or take home some homemade fudge and roasted Bavarian nuts. Glacial Swirl fudge marries mint and milk chocolate. Cinnamon-glazed pecans, almonds, and cashews make for tasty souvenirs.
This sweet destination is a great stop on your Alaska cruise or stay in Skagway. The friendly atmosphere will make you want to grab a treat again and again.
12. Serendipity Creamery and Yogurt Cafe
Attorney-turned-ice-cream-connoisseur Jessica is the brains behind this finalist, Serendipity Creamery and Yogurt Cafe. She crafts 24 dynamic flavors of ice creams and yogurts. You can top your cone with toasted coconut, passion fruit, and raspberry or get a single scoop of Pear Riesling or Orange Marmalade. These frozen treats also include homemade marshmallows, cookie dough, peanut butter cups, and more that are folded into the ice cream.
Serendipity uses organic ingredients whenever possible and supports local farms and artisans like Paradise Farms, Panther Coffee, and J. Wakefield Brewing. The Creamery and Café is certified kosher by Kosher Dairy Miami. The sorbet is vegan and the ice cream is cholov yisroel, which designates a higher standard of observance of kosher dietary laws with regard to dairy.
You can enjoy these unique flavors in Surfside and at the pop-up shop in Wynwood as well as select restaurants and hotels from South Beach to Aventura.
13. Lappert’s Premium Ice Cream
Palm Springs, California
Rounding out our readers’ favorite ice cream shops is Lappert’s Premium Ice Cream in Palm Springs, California. The original opened in 1981 and has been serving up delicious, unique flavors ever since. You can enjoy classics like cookies and cream and mint chip or adventurous flavors like honeysuckle rose and chocolate macadamia nut.
But they don’t stop with ice cream. You can also enjoy the ever-so-popular Dole Whip or super fruit bowls with acai or pitaya. And don’t miss out on their date shakes. They sound like a one-of-a-kind.
As you are planning your summer trips, make sure you add these dessert top spots to your list.
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