The Best Ice Cream Spots in the U.S.

Best Ice Cream Spots in the U.S.: New Orleans: The Creole Creamery
Photo: Photo courtesy of The Creole Creamery

Whether it's a Good Humor bar or a $10 sundae, Americans love ice cream — and fantastic parlors are creating brilliant flavors with ultra-creamy textures to entice us. Here's where to find the best ice cream in the U.S. — from an artisanal creamery on an 18th-century farm in Delaware to a historic frozen custard stand on Route 66.

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Molly Moon Ice Cream (Seattle)

Best Ice Cream Spots in the U.S.: Seattle'sMolly Moon Ice Cream
Photo © Molly Moon's Homemade Ice Cream

Must-have flavor: Cookies & Cream

Molly Moon Neitzel uses freshly baked cookies, fair trade Theo Chocolate, and handmade caramel to flavor her ice creams. She tried to source most of her ingredients locally — the farthest south she goes for fruit is Napa Valley (for blood oranges.) And it's not just the customers who are happy here: Employees get free health care, paid leave, and living wages.

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Sweet Rose Creamery (Santa Monica, California)

Sweet Rose Creamery
© Emily Hart Roth

Must-have flavor: Salted Caramel

All the small-batch ice creams at Sweet Rose Creamery are made from scratch using ingredients from local, organic, and regenerative farmers. There are classic flavors on the menu like Fresh Mint Chip and Salted Caramel, but also look out for seasonal creations like Fig Jam with Salty Crumble or Chocolate Pear Caramel Ripple.

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McConnell's (Santa Barbara, California)

© McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams

Must-have flavor: Churros con Leche

McConnell's pasteurizes its own milk and cream to make a rich, thick custard base. They also have parlors in Los Angeles and San Luis Obispo, and sell their unique flavors (like Earl Grey Tea & Shortbread Cookies) by the pint on their website.

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Salt & Straw (Portland, Oregon)

Salt and Straw
© Dina Avila

Must-have flavor: Arbequina Olive Oil

Salt & Straw is famous for its collaborations with chefs, as well as sweet and savory (and sometimes bizarre) combinations like Fish Sauce Caramel with Palm Sugar. They frequently release special series (like their full Thanksgiving dinner in ice cream form) that ship nationally.

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Mora Iced Creamery (Bainbridge Island, Washington)

Best Ice Cream Spots in the U.S.: Bainbridge Island's Mora Iced Creamery
Photo © Dadi Marinucci

Must-have flavor: Swiss Chocolate

A Bainbridge Island favorite, Mora Iced Creamery is owned and operated by two Argentinean expats. The superb ice cream is made in small batches and comes in flavors like Dulce de Leche and Gianduja.

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Screamin' Mimi's (Sebastopol, California)

Best Ice Cream Spots in the U.S.: Sebastopol, California'sScreamin' Mimi's
Photo © Kelsey Joy Photography (2011)

Must-have flavor: English Toffee

"The ice cream has great flavor and mouthfeel, and a large flavor selection that changes with the season. It always reminds me of childhood trips to the ice cream shop," said 2012 F&W Best New Pastry Chef Devin McDavid. Make sure to order one of their handmade waffle cones.

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Cool Moon Ice Cream (Portland, Oregon)

Best Ice Cream Spots in the U.S.: Portland, OR's Cool Moon Ice Cream
Photo courtesy of Cool Moon Creamery

Must-have flavor: Wicked Chocolate

Nestled among the art galleries and boutiques of Portland's Pearl District, Cool Moon Ice Cream is a mandatory stop on a summer day. The shop uses local ingredients for its ice creams like Bing Cherry Almond Chip, with cherries grown in Oregon, or the Willamette Valley Hazelnut, made with toasted hazelnuts from orchards just 20 miles away.

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Bi-Rite Creamery (San Francisco)

Best Ice Cream Spots in the U.S.: San Francisco's Bi-Rite Creamery
Photo © Bi-Rite Creamery

Must-have flavor: Salted Caramel or Black Sesame with Sonoma Honey

Almost everything at Bi-Rite Creamery is made from scratch, including the marshmallows for the Rocky Road. Marin County's Straus Family Creamery supplies organic dairy for the shop's ice creams.

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Fat Cat Creamery (Houston, Texas)

Fat Cat Creamery
© Chuck Cook Photography

Must-have flavor: Milk Chocolate Stout

Nearby Barry Farm provides figs, citrus fruits, and other ingredients for Fat Cat Creamery's five signature flavors, as well as seasonal offerings that change daily.

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Amy's Ice Cream (Austin, Texas)

Best Ice Cream Spots in the U.S.: Austin's Amy's Ice Cream
Photo © Kelly Bazely

Must-have flavor: Mexican Vanilla ice cream

Known for its scoop-juggling employees as well as its ice cream, Amy's offers more than 350 flavors on a rotating basis, including the Shiner Bock, made with the iconic Texan beer of the same name.

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Lick Honest Ice Creams (Austin, Texas)

Lick Honest Ice Creams, Austin
© Annie Ray

Must-have flavor: Dewberry Corn Cobbler

Inspired by the seasonal flavors of Texas, Lick Honest Ice Creams sources ingredients from local farmers to make their elevated ice creams like Goat Cheese, Thyme & Honey, featuring Austin's own creamy Pure Luck goat cheese.

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Churn (Phoenix)

Churn Ice Cream, Phoenix
© Upward Projects

Must-have flavor: Vietnamese Coffee

Churn has a retro vibe and nostalgic ice cream cookie sandwiches to match. Choose your cookie — from Snickerdoodle to Salted Chocolate Chunk — and ice cream flavors from a menu that rotates daily.

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Graeter's (Cincinnati)

Best Ice Cream Spots in the U.S.: Ohio's Graeter's
Photo courtesy of Graeter's

Must-have flavor: Buckeye Blitz Chocolate Chip

Graeter's custard-based ice cream, made just two gallons at a time, is slowly swirled and folded into itself in a French pot so no air gets whipped in. The technique makes for an extra-dense and creamy ice cream — each pint weighs almost a pound.

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Sweet Action (Denver)

Best Ice Cream Spots in the U.S.: Denver's Sweet Action Ice Cream
Photo courtesy of Sweet Action

Must-have flavor: Stranahan's Whiskey Brickle

The constantly revolving flavors at this 100% wind-powered ice cream shop include Thai Iced Tea and Vegan Caramel Carrot Cake.

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Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams (Columbus, Ohio)

Best Ice Cream Spots in the U.S.: Columbus's Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams
Photo © Jeni's Art + Design

Must-have flavor: Bombastix Sundae Cone

Jeni Britton Bauer creates some of the country's best Philadelphia-style ice creams (meaning they don't contain any eggs), sorbets, and frozen yogurts. Among the shop's bestselling flavors are Butterscotch Popcorn, Everything Bagel, and Wedding Cake.

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Big Dipper Ice Cream (Missoula, Montana)

Best Ice Cream Spots in the U.S.: Missoula's Big Dipper Ice Cream
Photo © Kristen Taylor

Must-have flavor: Huckleberry

The inspired flavors at Big Dipper Ice Cream range from El Salvador Coffee to Maple Walnut. In addition to scoop shops in Missoula, Helena, and Billings, Montana, they also have a famous "Coneboy" ice cream truck that rolls around Missoula.

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Moomers Homemade Ice Cream (Traverse City, Michigan)

Best Ice Cream Spots in the U.S.: Traverse City's Moomers Homemade Ice Cream
© Moomers

Must-have flavor: Black Cherry

The hands-down favorite of Traverse City locals, Moomers is a family-run parlor located on a dairy farm. As a bonus, the deck offers views of grazing cows.

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Kopp's Frozen Custard (Greenfield, Wisconsin)

Kopp's Frozen Custard
© Kopp's Frozen Custard

Must-have flavor: Vanilla

Frozen custard like the stuff served at Kopp's contains egg yolks, so it's richer, thicker, and creamier than your average ice cream. They always have their classic Vanilla and Chocolate on offer, plus a unique flavor of the day.

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Margie's Candies (Chicago)

Best Ice Cream Spots in the U.S.: Chicago's Margie's Candies
Photo © Margie’s Candies

Must-have flavor: Fudge Banana Split

"I rather enjoy a butterscotch sundae with vanilla ice cream but they have much more than that," said Bryce Caron, a 2012 F&W Best New Pastry Chef. "The sandwiches are delicious. Margie's is the kind of place you visit to forget the fact that you live in a major urban environment. Just grab a club sandwich and a banana split and call it a day."

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Ted Drewes Frozen Custard (St. Louis)

Ted Drewes
© Chris Beckemeier

Must-have flavor: Terramizzou

Ted Drewes' "concrete" (frozen custard so thick it's served upside down) has been a St. Louis staple ever since Drewes opened his Route 66 stand in 1941. It even inspired the frozen desserts served at Shake Shack.

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Mt. Desert Island Ice Cream (Bar Harbor, Maine)

Best Ice Cream Spots in the U.S.: Bar Harbor's Mt. Desert Ice Cream
Photo © Zack Bowen

Must-have flavor: Butterscotch Miso

Ice cream artisan Linda Parker perfects the usual suspects by making all of her flavors from scratch. Even the simple Madagascar Vanilla Bean ice cream is made with hand-cut vanilla pods, while the Salted Caramel features Maine sea salt. The shop skyrocketed in popularity when former President Obama stopped by for a cone, leading to additional outposts in Washington, D.C., and Matsumoto, Japan.

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Blue Marble Ice Cream (Brooklyn, New York)

Best Ice Cream Spots in the U.S.: Brooklyn's Blue Marble
Photo © Allie Misch

Must-have flavor: Strawberry

Started by two best friends, Blue Marble excels at old-school favorites. All the ice creams here are certified organic, from the milk to the fruit blended in. The shop also has a non-profit arm, Blue Marble Dreams, which helps women in countries such as Haiti and Rwanda open ice cream shops to support economic development.

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OddFellows (Brooklyn, New York)

Courtesy of Oddfellows

Must-have flavor: Coffee Crunch

Since opening its first shop in 2013, OddFellows has come up with over 500 offbeat creations alongside nostalgic flavors. The company frequently collaborates with brands and artists including LCD Soundsystem, which co-created the popular PB S'Mores flavor.

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Ice Cream Jubilee (Washington, D.C.)

Ice Cream Jubilee
© Victoria Lai / Ice Cream Jubilee

Must-have flavor: Thai Iced Tea

Victoria Lai, a former member of the Department of Homeland Security, gets creative with milk and cream from nearby South Mountain Creamery at Ice Cream Jubilee. Her flavors like Banana Bourbon Caramel, Pineapple Mojito Sorbet, and Thai Iced Tea are inspired by her international travels, favorite cocktails, and Chinese upbringing in Texas.

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Gannon's (Syracuse, New York)

Courtesy of Gannon's

Must-have flavor: Chocolate Raspberry Truffle

Syracuse parlor Gannon's uses ingredients from central New York in its 30-plus daily options. Both of the locations have whimsical, colorful interiors by local artist JP Crangle.

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Berkey Creamery (University Park, Campus of Penn State)

Berkey Creamery
© Michelle Bixby

Must-have flavor: Death by Chocolate

Berkey Creamery, which owns more than 200 cows, has been part of Penn State for 150 years. The school even offers an annual Ice Cream Short Course at the creamery for those who want to do a deep dive into the art of making frozen desserts.

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Woodside Farm Creamery (Hockessin, Delaware)

Best Ice Cream Spots in the U.S.: Hockessin's Woodside Farm Creamery
Photo courtesy of Woodside Farm Creamery

Must-have flavor: Peanut Butter & Jelly

Located on a farm dating back to 1796, Woodside Farm Creamery makes its ice cream with the milk from resident Jersey cows. Along with cones, the creamery specializes in hefty ice cream pies (each one contains a quart and a half of ice cream) with Oreo or graham cracker crusts.

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Toscanini's (Cambridge, Massachusetts)

Best Ice Cream Spots in the U.S.: Cambridge's Toscanini's
Photo © Toscanini’s Ice Cream

Must-have flavor: Hydrox Cookie

Original varieties like B3 (brown butter, brown sugar, and chunks of fudge brownie) share freezer space with decadent versions of the classics at Toscanini's. The floor-to-ceiling windows are superb for people-watching.

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Annabelle's Natural Ice Cream (Portsmouth, New Hampshire)

Best Ice Cream Spots in the U.S.: Portsmouth's Annabelle's Natural Ice Cream
Photo © Madeleine Severin

Must-have flavor: New Hampshire Pure Maple Walnut

Popular Annabelle's is right on the Portsmouth waterfront and serves all-natural ice cream in more than 30 regular flavors, plus rotating seasonal ones.

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Crescent Ridge Dairy Bar (Sharon, Massachusetts)

Best Ice Cream Spots in the U.S.: Sharon's Crescent Ridge Dairy Bar
Photo © Erin Nichols

Must-have flavor: Black Bear

The ice cream at Crescent Ridge Dairy Bar is made in small batches using a 50-year-old family recipe. Come for the Black Bear (raspberry ice cream with chocolate chips and chocolate raspberry truffles) and stay to watch the cows grazing in the pasture.

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Four Seas Ice Cream (Centerville, Massachusetts)

Best Ice Cream Spots in the U.S.: Centerville's Four Seas Ice Cream
Photo courtesy of Four Seas Ice Cream

Must-have flavor: Fresh Peach

This Cape Cod institution, housed in a tiny white cottage, has been serving housemade ice cream every summer since 1934. Its fruit flavors, like Fresh Peach and Black Raspberry, are always a hit, as is the Penuche Pecan, an old-fashioned brown sugar ice cream based on an old-school New England recipe.

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The Juice Bar (Nantucket, Massachusetts)

Best Ice Cream Spots in the U.S.: Nantucket's The Juice Bar
Photo © Jackie Faherty

Must-have flavor: Rum Raisin

Laura Sawicki, a 2012 F&W Best New Pastry Chef, loves Nantucket's beachy Juice Bar, which makes incredible waffle cones. "You can smell them a mile away and the line wraps around the block," she said.

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Island Creamery (Chincoteague Island, Virginia)

Island Creamery
© Island Creamery

Must-have flavor: Marsh Mud

The Conklin family has been making fantastic small-batch ice creams and custom ice cream cakes at Island Creamery for over 40 years. Their most popular flavors are Bourbon Caramel Crunch, the chocolatey Marsh Mud, and Java Jolt, a coffee ice cream with gooey brownie chunks and chocolate-covered espresso beans.

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The Bent Spoon (Princeton, New Jersey)

The Bent Spoon
© Gabrielle Carbone

Must-have flavor: Crème Fraîche

Gabrielle Carbone and Matt Errico rotate through some 500 flavors at The Bent Spoon, including intriguing options like sweet potato and cardamom ginger.

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The Creole Creamery (New Orleans)

Best Ice Cream Spots in the U.S.: New Orleans: The Creole Creamery
Photo courtesy of The Creole Creamery

Must-have flavor: Creole Cream Cheese

The Creole Creamery has fountain-shop staples like banana splits and sundaes, along with rotating ice cream flavors like Creole Cream Cheese and Strawberry Jalapeno Cheesecake.

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