PHOTO: COURTESY OF WILD SCOOPS
With all the ice cream shops scattered around the United States, it can often be rather painful to narrow down where exactly to go. Thanks to Yelp, that decision can now be a little less laborious. The crowd-sourced review platform took a look at all businesses in the ice cream, frozen yoghurt and gelato categories and using an algorithm, determined the best in each state based on the highest number of reviews and star rating.
After all, nothing delights and divides like a humble scoop of ice cream. Here, you’ll find a creamery milking cow down the street, a 50-year-old frozen custard institution, and a roving tricycle handing out strawberry cheesecake ice cream sandwiches.
These are the best ice cream shops in every state.
Alabama: Chocolate Corner & Ice Cream, Gulf Shores
The Chocolate Corner & Ice Cream shop is Gulf Shores’ favorite institution for a reason: chocolates made in-house are sold alongside scoops of ice cream. Nibble on buckeyes and chocolate-dipped pretzels while you wait to carve into a Brownie a la Yumm sundae: scoops of vanilla ice cream drenched in chocolate syrup and whipped cream and finished off with a warm brownie and cherry.
Alaska: Wild Scoops, Anchorage
PHOTO: COURTESY OF WILD SCOOPS
Wild Scoops, a small-batch micro creamery, crafts flavors out of local ingredients and Alaskan products. Since launching in 2015, the team has dreamt up over 100 flavors: some seasonal and avant-garde (Jamberwocky comes from sweet cream and mango ghost pepper jam from VooDoo Jam), while others are more traditional (Sitka Swirl is salted caramel spun with Alaskan sea salt). The creamery boasts both a scoop shop and a test kitchen, complete with ice cream sandwiches.
Arizona: Novel Ice Cream, Phoenix
This teeny scoop shop doesn’t just plop ice cream onto cones — they also submerge the 12 rotating flavors into ice cream floats and jam spheres into warm glazed donuts. The flavors here aren’t your run-of-the-mill choices: there might be Fat Elvis (peanut butter ice cream studded with bananas and bacon) or bourbon caramel toffee crunch, infused with bourbon, housemade caramel and chunks of chocolate-covered toffee. Each cone is crowned with a Dutch stroopwafel, flown in from the Netherlands.
Arkansas: Tacker’s Shake Shack, Marion
Loyalists flock to Tacker’s Shake Shack for a cup of ice cream, charmingly sunk into white Styrofoam cups. There are over 35 flavors — from black walnut to Oreo and papaya — with a nostalgic twist: scoops can be served simply on their own, whirred into a milkshake or malt or blitzed with toppings for a “shiver” (also known as concrete).
California: Bobboi Natural Gelato, La Jolla
The gelato at Bobboi Natural Gelato blends the heart of Italy with a California soul: Flavors are born out of California ingredients but painstakingly made with Italian technique. Here, spoon into espresso strewn with chocolate chips, rosewater & honey, and Meyer lemon and mint. Upon the final crunch of cone and gelato, you’ll find yourself unapologetically full of bobboi (an Italian expression for joy).
Colorado: Sweet Cow, Denver
PHOTO: COURTESY OF SWEET COW
All the ice cream at Sweet Cow is made from local ingredients. Flavors are a mix of the nostalgia-inducing ones you adored as a kid — cookies and cream, mint chocolate chip, and s’ mores — plus some novelty, funky flavors, too: Fruity Pebbles, banana Nutella, and sweet cream peppered with oatmeal cookies. Dive into just a pure scoop, or walk away with a cup drizzled with housemade fudge, caramel and whipped cream.
Connecticut: Ferris Acres Creamery, Newtown
It’s thanks to three generations of the Ferris family that this farm produces ice cream. As you pull up to the quaint red barn, you’ll pass grazing cows before browsing a slew of nearly 70 flavors, along with a couple of sorbets. Some are always available, like creamy black raspberry and Ali-Oop, a mix of chocolate with fudge swirls and brownie pies; others are seasonal, like blueberry cheesecake and a peppermint stick. On your way out, grab one (or two) ice cream cookie sandwiches for the road.
Delaware: Vanderwende Farm Creamery, Bridgeville
What started out has a simple family farm has since morphed into an extensive ice cream operation. The family-run dairy farm and creamery in Bridgeville has 225 milking cows who churn out milk for the likes of red velvet, pumpkin pie, caramel apple, cotton candy, rocky road and lemon chiffon ice cream, along with sugar- and dairy-free offerings.
Florida: Matty’s Gelato Factory, Juno Beach
After studying under an Italian gelato master, Matthew Cairo decided to bring his love of gelato back to his home state. Here in South Florida, his gelato highlights both Italian and American flavor profiles: there are stracciatella and tiramisu, cake batter and Butterfinger, rum raisin and lavender. Each is scooped from a silver tin and into a plastic cup, ready to be spooned by the beach.
Georgia: Voga Italian Gelato, Atlanta
Ingredients are shipped in from Italy to Voga Italian Gelato, where the gelato maestros craft the warm-weather dessert in the house. Tubs of the stuff are jammed into a glass case, waiting to be scooped. Expect pink strawberry, creamy ricotta, rich dark chocolate orange and zabaglione, flush with Sicilian wine.
Hawaii: Ululani's Hawaiian Shave Ice, Kihei
Owner Ululani and her husband David were so infatuated with the shave ice they grew up eating that they decided to open up their own business. Here, ice is shaved into a flurry of paper-thin shards, then pressed together into a cool, white cloud. Colorful, flavored syrups — like lychee, sour lemon, cotton candy and watermelon — are poured on top. You can also get a combination of a couple of different flavors, like the Haleakala: a mix of coconut and sweetened condensed milk.
Idaho: The STIL, Boise
PHOTO: COURTESY OF THE STIL
At The STIL (short for the sweetest things in life), life certainly is sweet. The downtown establishment doesn’t merely sling ice cream — the shop offers booze-infused flavors, affogatos, ice cream sandwiches and even beer and wine pairings. Grab a table and a flight of a few half scoops (like mascarpone and balsamic fig and butterscotch spiked with amber ale and Cracker Jacks) with a flight of beers.
Illinois: Covered Bridge Creamery, Long Grove
Just north of Chicago is a charming ice cream shop operating out of a tiny house. Inside, there are wood-panelled walls and a large assortment of coffee and tea, but the main attraction is the ice cream case, overflowing with Madison, Wisconsin’s Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream. Expect classic flavors like butter pecan and peanut butter cup. When it’s warm, join the locals outside under the many umbrella-shielded tables, cone in hand.
Indiana: Nicey Treat, Indianapolis
Little distracts from the popsicles at Nicey Treat, a brick-and-mortar shop with a separate blue roving truck. The colorful popsicles come in both vegan and dairy varieties — think pink lemonade, banana cream and cookie butter — speared onto wooden popsicle sticks. For an added bonus, each popsicle can be dunked in quick-hardening chocolate.
Iowa: Yotopia Frozen Yogurt, Iowa City
Iowa City’s original frozen yoghurt shop, Yotopia specializes in probiotic-packed frozen yoghurt. Here, prop yourself in front of the self-service machines and mix swirls of wild blackberry, cake batter and taro root into green paper cups. It’s DIY heaven, complete with customizable toppings.
Kansas: Sylas & Maddy's Homemade Ice Cream, Olathe
Upon entering Sylas & Maddy’s Homemade Ice Cream, you’re quickly barraged with wafts of fresh waffle cones. The rolled cones are jammed with scoops of housemade ice cream: bright orange peaches & cream, banana cream pie and English toffee. At any time, the case houses a rotating selection of 40 different flavors, but over 150 have been dreamt up since the place opened in 1997.
Kentucky: Crank & Boom Ice Cream Lounge, Lexington
Before there was Crank & Boom, there was Thai Orchid Café, a restaurant that served one kind of ice cream: coconut. People flocked to the place just for ice cream — without any Thai food. Its growing popularity led the owners to open an ice cream shop, dishing up creative and funky flavors: strawberry balsamic sorbet blended with berries from Eckert’s Boyd Orchard, bourbon & honey swirled with Hosey’s Honey, and the same beloved coconut. The upstairs lounge sees ice cream lovers diving into sundaes, scoops spiked with a shot of liquor, and ice cream cocktails.
Louisiana: Sweet Handkraft, Metairie
PHOTO: COURTESY OF SWEET HANDKRAFT
Asian flavors rule this cute, friendly establishment: neon green pandam, lychee raspberry, purple tube, and mango coconut Thai basil. The rainbow of scoops can be simply sunk into cups, or pressed into soft donuts, propped atop Hong Kong-style waffles showered with sprinkles and puffs of whipped cream, or squeezed between colorful macaron shells.
Maine: The Gelato Fiasco, Brunswick
Two recent college grads founded The Gelato Fiasco in 2007, both frustrated they couldn’t find a good gelato in Maine. Since opening, the Gelato Fiasco has morphed from a humble shop to a burgeoning company shipping carton of gelato to over 6,000 grocery stores in the country. At the Brunswick shop, creamy gelato is swirled on cones and cups; there are plenty of fruit flavors (Blood orange! Maine wild blueberry crisp! Passionfruit!), and ones overflowing with add-ins: mint gelato studded with brownies and cookies; vanilla freckled Maine cranberries and truffles; and milky gelato bursting with cream-filled chocolate cookies.
Maryland: Daily Scoop, Pasadena
Pick from 32 homemade flavors at this postage-stamp-sized parlour. The no-frills shop, complete with blue and white tiles and a blackboard scrawled with a list of flavors, is known for generous scoops of cherry vanilla, cannoli and birthday cake ice cream. Scoops can also be whirled into milkshakes or prepped for banana splits. There’s not much seating inside, but there are a couple of benches just outside.
Massachusetts: Dolce Freddo Gelato, Methuen
Just off Merrimack Street, Dolce Freddo Gelato is stationed in an unassuming white house. Inside, glass cases house over 120 gelato and sorbet flavors — from caramel brownie and vanilla fig to orange creamsicle and cantaloupe. A few tables and chairs line one wall, and in the summer months the place quickly fills up with sticky handed-children toting plastic cups of gelato, flanked by parents cupping mugs of espresso.
Michigan: Pekadill’s, Whitehall
This picturesque diner doubles as an ice cream parlour, slinging both sandwiches and hot fudge sundaes. Ice cream comes from Ashby’s and Hudsonville Ice Cream (a Michigan-based purveyor), plopped on cones and hugged between halved bananas. The ice cream storefront is upfront (the restaurant is in the back), dotted with red wooden booths and red-and-white striped walls.
Minnesota: Flapdoodles Homemade Ice Cream, Rochester
Flapdoodles is marked by a nautical theme, thanks to the owner’s father’s penchant for sailing. Scoops arrive sunken in a long dish, mini sugar cones propped on top like sails waving in the breeze. Flavors run the gamut from malted milk ball and carrot cake to banana nut chunk and pumpkin spice latte, which can also be spun into a milkshake or malt.
Mississippi: Area 51 Ice Cream, Hernando
Tucked into a tiny strip mall on a quiet street, Area 51 Ice Cream is a local institution. All the ice cream here is made daily, buoyed by in-season produce from the Hernando Farmers Market and ingredients from small local businesses. Flavors change often, but expect funky varieties like a lemon icebox, Saigon cinnamon snickerdoodle and blackberry goat cheese, dished up in simple white paper cups.
Missouri: Betty Rae’s Ice Cream, Kansas City
Founders David and Mary Friesen can’t stop themselves from fantasizing about ice cream flavors. The pair got their start working at Sparky’s Homemade Ice Cream and Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, improvising flavors on the fly. Their love of ice cream prompted them to open their own shop — named after David’s grandmother — where their adoration for the unusual is the main attraction: expect things like lavender honey, root beer, and avocado with a cardamom fudge swirl. $3 gets you a single scoop, or have it fastened between two cookies, or fused with liquor in a boozy float.
Montana: Sweet Peaks, Whitefish
PHOTO: COURTESY OF SWEET PEAKS
Now boasting four locations in Montana, Sweet Peaks showcases 16-18 flavors daily, all born out of Montana dairy. The classic flavors are worth seeking out — salty caramel and honey cinnamon — but it’s the speciality flavors that really show the team’s creativity. Cosy up in front of a fire by noshing on Cabin Fever (dark chocolate-spiked brandy tossed with candied pralines, chocolate chips and marshmallows) or sip tea with Inversion: Earl Grey tea steeped in milk, then plunked with house-made lemon curd and vanilla biscuits.
Nebraska: Coneflower Creamery, Omaha
The ice cream wizards at Coneflower Creamery practice the art of farm to cone: using the highest quality ingredients from local farmers and changing what’s available based on what’s in season. The menu is split up into classics (cookies and cream and dark chocolate) and signatures, like saffron and caramelized white chocolate and sweet corn. But the shop doesn’t just employ ice cream connoisseurs: there’s also an in-house pastry chef tasked at making all the mix-ins, sauces, toppings and waffle cones.
Nevada: Gelato di Milano, Las Vegas
Franco Pati followed his son Jean Luca to Vegas, where the two succeeded in making the Italian tradition of father and son working together with a reality. The duo runs this gelateria, churning out some 60 flavors, nearly 25 of which are fruit-based sorbets. Treasures like Sicilian cannoli, pistachio and Nutella might be found in the case, before scooped and twirled onto skinny wafer cones.
New Hampshire: Morano Gelato, Hanover
After learning to craft gelato in Italy, Morgan Morano brought her skills — and a gelato machine from Northern Italy — back to Hanover, where she churns 12-16 rotating flavors every morning. The full list of flavors is divided into five categories: There are the classics (fior di latte, stracciatella), the chocolates (dark chocolate hazelnut, chocolate and red pepper), the fruits (banana, kiwi, mango), the nuts (almond, walnut) and the traditional (olive oil, saffron).
New Jersey: Gelato Dolceria, Haddonfield
Longtime friends John Caiola and Miguel Paletta turned their love of Italian dessert into a tangible — and very edible — shop. The pair craft a slew of gelatos in wonderfully bright colors — blood orange, pistachio, Meyer lemon — overflowing in cups and finished off with a sliver of a waffle cone shaped like a disk. In addition to gelato, Caiola bakes a host of Italian pastries: sfogliatelle, cannoli, Napoleons and pizzelle (an Italian waffle cookie).
New Mexico: The Paleta Bar, Albuquerque
Open the door to The Paleta Bar and you’ll be greeted with a glass case, brimming with a rainbow of paletas. The paletas — Spanish for ice pops — here are a combination of fruit and milk, making them far more creamy than your average ice cream truck popsicle. Choose from both fruit (mango, lime, strawberry) and non-fruit flavors (hazelnut crunch, avocado, Oreo), which can be dunked in chocolate and sprinkled with coconut, chilli powder and sprinkles.
New York: Snowflake Ice Cream Shoppe, Riverhead
PHOTO: COURTESY OF SNOWFLAKE ICE CREAM SHOPPE
Nothing much has changed since Herb and Joan Kunitz introduced their ice cream parlor to Riverhead in 1953. The neon blue building still stands, with an ice cream cone proudly hanging off the roof. Wonderfully retro, the shop serves hard ice cream created by the Kunitzes, along with pillows of soft serve. Flavors run the gamut from maple walnut to cookie monster — a wonder as blue as the walls — and local favorite Peconic Swamp Thing (chocolate ice cream tossed with fudge, brownies and raspberry purée).
North Carolina: Surfin' Spoon, Nags Head
Make yourself at home at Surfin’ Spoon, a Nags Head favorite for frozen yogurt. Prop yourself at any (or all) of the self-serve machines, pumping out puffs of blueberry, watermelon and chocolate frozen yogurt. Toppings are also self service, prepped with spoons in bowls of sliced fruit, cereal, cookie chunks and chocolate and caramel syrups.
North Dakota: Scoop N Dough Candy Co, Fargo
Although the ice cream at Scoop N Dough Candy Co isn’t made on-site, owner Josh Ulrich tasks a local ice cream maker to churn tubs of the stuff in flavors that you loved as a kid: rainbow sherbet, mint chocolate chip, and bubblegum. Scoops are baseball-sized rounds, planted on waffle cones. There’s also buckets of cheese and caramel popcorn, plus safe-to-eat cookie dough, laced with peanut butter and sprinkles, which double as ice cream toppings.
Ohio: Mitchell's Homemade Ice Cream, Cleveland
Brothers Mike and Pete Mitchell adapted their creamery from a wholesale business to eight brick-and-mortar shops in Ohio. Most of the ingredients — from the free-range eggs to the organic berries and grass-fed berries — are all locally sourced. They’re the base of over three dozen flavors; expect the classics (creamy strawberry, vanilla strewn with housemade cookie dough, Rocky Road peppered with roasted almonds), and some experiments (blue cotton candy freckled with marshmallow, pralines and cream, and maple walnut).
Oklahoma: Rose Rock Microcreamery, Tulsa
PHOTO: COURTESY OF ROSE ROCK MICROCREAMERY
For owners Jason Decker and James Nelson, it was imperative their micro creamery-made ice cream has a high milk-fat content, low-air content, all-natural ingredients and made out of small batches. That’s certainly the case here, where 18 flavors of exceptionally dense yet creamy ice cream are available every day. There might be salted crack caramel, blood orange and cardamom, or the eponymous Rose Rock rife with strawberries, chocolate and candied pecans.
Oregon: Sea Star Gelato, Seaside
You can learn all about gelato at Sea Star Gelato, thanks to an informative gelato facts sign hanging in a corner (It’s lower in fat! Has a higher density! And is served fresh!). Now that you’re educated, it’s time to eat: coils of chocolate nougat, confetti cake and bubblegum are swiped into green cups, or stuffed into donuts for a sweet Italian panini.
Pennsylvania: D'Ascenzo's Gelato, West Chester
After sampling gelato in Rome, Glen and Kristen D’Ascenzo decided to fashion their own in Philadelphia, operating out of farmers markets and roaming carts. A few years later, they moved the business to West Chester, launching a brick-and-mortar store serving 24 flavors each day. Grab a few scoops, like mascarpone, mocha espresso and limoncello sorbet, tucked into multi-colored cups, then snag a seat on the patio outback.
Rhode Island: Tricycle Ice Cream, Providence
Tricycle Ice Cream got its start hawking ice cream sandwiches out of a traveling tricycle-cart. It’s only recently that the owners expanded with a store and a larger menu: there are the beloved ice cream sandwiches in funky varieties like brioche French toast, plus ice cream tacos stamped with Fruity Pebbles, ice cream drumsticks, and sorbet push-pops, some spiked with alcohol.
South Carolina: Melt, North Myrtle Beach
Just a block from the beach, Melt sees lines curving out the door during the summer months. The shop encourages guests to never settle for just one scoop, especially when there are so many thrilling flavors to choose from: honey-roasted peanut butter, bananas foster, double-stuffed Oreo, and white peach. Plus, for the dairy-averse, there are plenty of vegan options available too.
South Dakota: Stensland Family Farms, Sioux Falls
The Stensland family has been milking cows in Iowa for over 100 years, so they certainly know a thing or two when it comes to dreaming up dairy products. Let the scooper load up a chocolate waffle cone with scoops of honey lemon lavender and How Now Brown Cow (milky chocolate), then grab a handful of cheese curds and salted sweet cream butter on your way out.
Tennessee: Las Paletas Gourmet Popsicles, Nashville
PHOTO: COURTESY OF LAS PALETAS GOURMET POPSICLES
Sisters Norma and Irma Paz bring their childhood to Nashville through Mexican paletas. The fruit-only and creamy paletas are all richly colored, thanks to the inclusion of fresh, ripe fruits and vegetables, grains, nuts, herbs and flowers plucked from community gardens. Freezers house classic Mexican flavors (avocado, lime, pineapple with chili peppers), flavors buoyed by customer requests (chocolate banana, Nutella) and seasonal ones (corn, pumpkin, basil).
Texas: Manolis Ice Cream, Pastries, & Cakes, Austin
As the name suggests, this family-run business — operated out of a white trailer — does everything: housemade cakes, pastries, ice pops and ice cream. Just order at the window for a scoop of ice cream, done up in traditional flavors: smooth strawberry speckled with berries, cookie dough, mint chocolate chip. The trailer also lodges a case of paletas — in both water and cream form — along with mounds of Italian ice and sorbet.
Utah: Sweetaly Gelato, Salt Lake City
Two Italian natives are at the helm of Sweetaly Gelato, whose love of gelato propelled them to study the art in Italy. After coming to the states, the husband-and-wife team set up shop in Salt Lake City, a pink-accented place complete with smooth Italian gelato. Pick from panna cotta, lemon biscotti, marzipan and chocolate orange gelato, or cool off with a handful of fruit sorbets: strawberry banana, pink guava and cantaloupe.
Vermont: Shy Guy Gelato, Burlington
The two founders of Shy Guy Gelato have some serious cred to their name — one apprenticed in restaurants in Italy and the other is a leader in the Vermont farm-to-table movement — so it only makes sense that the two of them partnered up to satisfy the Burlington community with gelato. Here, a freezer is filled with only a few flavors a day: there might be brown butter and amarena cherry chocolate or Thai coffee. The blue shop is teeny, but gelato can also be purchased from their cart on Church Street.
Virgina: La Flor Michoacana, Charlottesville
Having seen so many paleta shops in Mexico, Birzayith “Jimmy” Polania hardly saw any in the United States. So he changed that by opening his own place in Charlottesville, handing out Mexican popsicles studded with hunks of fruit and housemade ice cream. The mangoneada is especially popular: a plastic cup teeming with mango sorbet and mango wedges, topped with Chamoy sauce, chili powder and a tamarind stick.
Washington: Medzo Gelato Bar & Travel Cafe, Burien
This Burien favorite is rather unassuming — a tiny shop outfitted with a few tables and funky trinkets — but the lines that creep out the door say otherwise. Everyone’s here for the gelato: wonderfully sweet adaptations of tiramisu, yogurt and berries, passionfruit and grapefruit. On cooler nights, diners can often be spotted spooning affogatos: espresso poured over vanilla gelato.
Washington, D.C.: Bon Matcha
A minuscule shop, Bon Matcha is a mere carryout window for puffy clouds of matcha soft serve. Matcha is imported from Uji, Kyoto — the birthplace of the beloved green powder. A second, rotating seasonal flavor graces the menu — it could be pink sakura (cherry blossom) or milk — swirled on its own or paired with matcha.
West Virginia: Caffe Romeo, Charleston
Naples native Mario Sommella flies in ingredients from his home country and uses only Italian equipment to churn his milky gelato. Found in a squat red-and-white house, the shop is a hybrid of an espresso bar and gelateria — a meeting place for the community to try toasted marshmallow and red velvet cake gelato while nursing cups of coffee.
Wisconsin: Kopp's Frozen Custard, Greenfield
What started out as a humble custard stands in 1950 grew into an adored business with several locations in Wisconsin. Kopp’s Frozen Custard boasts smooth custard in a slew of flavors — think butterscotch, cherry and banana – plus rotating flavors of the day, which in the past have included Bavarian wedding cake and German apple streusel. Have it straight, blitzed into a thick shake, or plopped into a sundae, like the chocolate banana cream pie: vanilla custard showered with sliced bananas, chocolate and banana cream, chocolate flakes and hunks of French pastry.
Wyoming: Big Dipper Ice Cream, Laramie
A mom-and-pop shop, Big Dipper Ice Cream feels like a vintage ice cream parlor, complete with blue swiveling stools and a wooden bar prepped for sundaes and to slurp milkshakes. All the ice cream, gelato and sorbet are made on-site, in flavors like chocolate marshmallow, coconut fudge swirl, and red-orange. The ice cream changes quite frequently, but it’s always primed to be loaded into polka-dotted cups, dunked in floats and tossed in banana splits.
Source: Travel+Leisure, June 23, 2019.