America's Best Ice-Cream Shops

Nothing says summer—or vacation—like a cold cone on a hot day.

Smarter Travel
Photo: Kathryn Sarkis

We asked editors and readers for their favorite scoops from shops, shacks, and trucks around the country and came up with this lip-smacking list. But in a country with so much amazing ice cream, we couldn't cover everyone's top picks. If you don't see your favorite, consider yourself lucky: more ice cream for you.


Unique Flavors

There are weird flavors-say, cream cheese chocolate chip-and then there are weird flavors, foie gras and Boccalone prosciutto among them. You can find all these, plus many slightly tamer flavors at Humphry Slocombe in San Francisco. Indulge in the breakfast of champions with the bourbon ice cream and crunchy corn flaked "secret breakfast," or treat your taste buds with milk chocolate passion fruit.


In Cambridge, Mass., iconic local favorite Toscanini's adds a bit of flair to its menu with flavors such as Three Drunken Musketeers and Khulfee.
Cool Haus ice cream sandwich, Los Angeles
Photo: Brian Leatart

Mobile Licks

Ice cream trucks have come a long way since the heyday of the Sno Cone. Cross paths with Los Angeles-based ice cream truck Coolhaus and you'll be rewarded with a generously portioned and customizable ice cream sandwich. Mix and match freshly baked cookies and handmade ice cream in an edible wrapper.


In New York City, Van Leeuwen's five trucks peddle decadent flavors such as hazelnut and red currant. Ice creams are made with fresh milk and cream from New York State farmers and other locally sourced ingredients.


Young's Jersey Dairy, Springfield, Ohio
Photo: John Young

Old Fashioned Fun

Ice cream has delighted generations of sweet tooths, and sometimes a scoop with a side of nostalgia is just the ticket. When you go to Young's Jersey Dairy, just outside Springfield, Ohio, you head straight to the source. The farm has been around since 1869, and the family has been making and selling ice cream since the 1960s. Seasonal flavors include pumpkin ice cream, tiramisu gelato, and peach sorbetto. Family activities such as miniature golf, wagon rides, and a petting zoo offer reasons to stick around for a second cone.


Homer's Homemade Gourmet Ice Cream in Wilmette, Ill., has been serving up freshly made ice cream in its parlor since 1935, and generations of fans continue to flock there today. Coco-almond chip, prairie berry, spumoni, and dozens of other flavors make choosing just one (or two, or three) a difficult decision.


Mora Ice Cream, Bainbridge Island, Wash.
Photo: Mora Ice Cream Co., LLC.

International Flavors

These top spots for ice cream may be in the U.S., but they look to other parts of the world for inspiration. Many of the flavors at Mora on Bainbridge Island (with additional locations in Kingston and Poulsbo, Washington) are inspired by the owners' native Buenos Aires, while other ice creams are influenced by customer suggestions. The result? Temptations like dulce de leche, marron glace, and rose petal.


At New Orleans institution Angelo Brocato, the spirit of Sicilian sweets is alive and well. Choose among dozens of rich ice creams, ices, and gelatos. Want more than just a scoop? Indulge in spumoni, cassata, or an array of Italian cookies and candies.


Ici Ice Cream, Berkeley, Calif.
Photo: Ici Ice Cream

Local/Sustainable/Organic

Happy cows meet regional flavors at ice cream shops focusing on local, organic, and sustainable ingredients throughout the country. At Ici in Berkeley, Calif., people line up year-round for a taste of the small shop's homemade ice cream made with organic eggs and dairy, and sustainably raised seasonal ingredients. Flavors change daily, but include luscious options like cardamom rose and toasted almond with cherry, served atop exceptional homemade cones. Ice cream sandwiches such as candied Meyer lemon ice cream with gingersnaps are another popular specialty.


Sweet Action in Denver makes its superpremium ice cream with local dairy and seasonal ingredients to create decadent flavors such as strawberry black pepper, cherry chocolate chip, and mascarpone blackberry. To boot, your scoop has a smaller-than-average environmental footprint: The shop is 100 percent wind powered and uses compostable packaging.


Jaxson's Ice Cream, Dania Beach, Fla.
Photo: Jaxson's Ice Cream

Giant Scoops

Ready for the biggest ice cream headache you've ever had? At Jaxson's Ice Cream Parlour in Dania Beach, Fla., you'll find generous scoops, jumbo sundaes, and, if you can wrangle up four or more friends, a chance to dive into the shop's signature Kitchen Sink sundae. All the ice cream, cold toppings, and soda syrups are freshly made at Jaxson's every day using traditional ingredients like cane sugar.


Your balance better be good if you're going to attempt a large soft serve cone at Belt's in Stevens Point, Wisc. The towering swirl of soft, delicious ice cream comes in vanilla, vanilla-chocolate, chocolate, and strawberry. This is one you'll definitely want to capture on film.


Capogiro Gelato, Philadelphia
Photo: Capogiro Gelato Artisans

Gelato

Walk into a gelateria, and your eyes will get the first treat. Frozen cases full of brightly colored gelato heaped high offer dozens of tempting flavors. Dense, rich, and best eaten fresh, gelato—once found only in Italy—is available in more and more cities around the country. Capogiro Gelato in Philadelphia has earned its spot in the hearts of its patrons. Its luxuriously textured gelato comes in flavors such as local apricot, rich dark chocolate, and the classic fior di latte made with milk from a Lancaster County Amish farm.


As the name suggests, New York City's il laboratorio del gelato creates unique flavors as well as offering up traditional favorites. The latest venture from the founder of Ciao Bella Gelato, il laboratorio's small storefront serves up palate-pleasing flavors such as fresh mint, fig, and olive oil gelatos.


White Farms, Ipswich, Mass.
Photo: SmarterTravel Staff

Ice Cream Stands

Nothing says summer quite like an ice cream stand; getting that big, drippy scoop though the window, then savoring every last bite sitting on a picnic bench in the sun. That's just what you'll find at White Farms in Ipswich, Mass. You'll know you're there when you see the cow on the roof. Under sun and stars from March to October, you can enjoy exceptionally rich homemade ice cream in flavors like caramel cow, frozen pudding, and Grapenut.


Lula's Sweet Apothecary, New York City
Photo: Derek M. Hackett

Non-Dairy

Whether you don't eat dairy by necessity or choice, you can still indulge. At Lula's Sweet Apothecary in New York City, the prescription is non-dairy, vegan ice cream. Rotating flavors like chocolate chocolate chip and banana walnut are scooped with a smile. Its signature cake batter flavored soft serve draws crowds too.


Okay, so Hawaiian shave ice isn't ice cream, but it is a dairy-free frozen treat packed with flavor and sure to brighten any warm day, especially at Matsumoto Shave Ice on Oahu's North Shore. Take your pick of homemade flavors like guava, coconut cream, and cherry.


The Dairy Godmother, Alexandria, Va.
Photo: The Dairy Godmother

Frozen Custard

When is ice cream not ice cream? When it's frozen custard. Thick, creamy, and softer than ice cream, frozen custard was invented on Coney Island, and continues to have a major following, especially in the Mid-Atlantic states and parts of the Midwest. If your dream is delicious frozen custard, The Dairy Godmother in Alexandria, Va., will make that wish come true. Friendly employees serve up creamy Wisconsin-style custard in vanilla, chocolate, and daily flavors such as Tollhouse cookie and Florida lime pie. Whether you're in the mood for a scoop or want to dress that custard up as a sundae, you can get it at this local favorite.


In Milwaukee, Kopp's has been delighting custard aficionados since 1950. Vanilla and swiss chocolate are offered daily in scoop, sundae, or shake form, along with a memorable flavor of the day like pomegranate or bienenstichkuchen (a German dessert with custard).


(Editor's Note: SmarterTravel.com is a member of the TripAdvisor Media Network, an operating company of Expedia, Inc. Expedia, Inc. also owns Expedia.com and Hotwire.)



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