Pennsylvania Has an Ice Cream Trail, and It’s Glorious
Maybe it all started with a wine trail, and then craft brewers got involved. A few years ago, the geniuses in the Finger Lakes formed an alliance to highlight their award-winning farmstead cheeses. Now, in what might be the most brilliant strategy yet, dozens of creameries across Pennsylvania are part of an ice cream trail.
The Pursue Your Scoops Ice Cream Trail, organized by Visit PA in partnership with the state’s department of agriculture, officially kicked off this summer, after last year’s successful pilot program. A series of three trails covering Western, South Central, and Eastern Pennsylvania, each one includes some combination of scoop shops and family-run-farm creameries that serve to highlight the state’s robust dairy industry. (And also spread unbridled joy and happiness.)
Carolyn Eaglehouse, third-generation dairy farmer at Milky Way Farm, which also operates Chester Springs Creamery on the Eastern trail, says the initiative has been a boon for helping farms diversify their businesses. “It’s been a wonderful opportunity to get people back on the farm, and connected to where their food comes from.”
So far the trail has been a big hit, according to Eaglehouse, with visits from multigenerational families, and at least one couple getting engaged.
“People love it, because unlike the wine trail, they don’t have to have a designated driver,” she says. Also, the unbridled joy and happiness.
You can pick up a passport at any of the stops on the trail (or download one online) and collect a stamp at each to earn prizes. Of course the true prize is spending time with loved ones, eating endless fresh-from-the-source scoops.
Below, find a sample trail that includes six farms, one brewery, pastoral landscapes, herds of dairy cows, a duck named Fluffy, and countless flavors of ice cream.
Stop 1: Freddy Hill Farms in Landsdale, PA has mini golf, batting cages, and a farm zoo with a Scottish Highlander named Duke and three goats named Frosty, Dip, and Scoop, but the ice cream, made right on premises, is the main attraction. Find seasonal flavors like lemon cookie crunch in the summer and pumpkin and apple pie in the fall. After tasting her first bite, my seven-year-old noted: “If this was the only ice cream I ate all day, I’d be happy.”
Stop 2: Run by the same family for over 100 years, Merrymead Farm is home to Holstein cows that supply the fresh milk and cream for their premium ice creams. Choose from dozens of flavors, including Brew-HA-HA, made with cold brew coffee and brownie chunks, and take your cups or cones to the picnic tables outside for a view of grazing dairy cows. You can also pick up provisions in the farm store—fresh fruit, local honey and cheese, and homemade sticky buns—in case you want to diversify the day’s diet.
Stop 3: All the flavors at Chester Springs Creamery at Milky Way Farm are charmingly named after the cows that supply the milk. “Every flavor has a story behind it,” says co-owner Carolyn Eaglehouse. Bessie’s Black Raspberry was inspired by an Amish builder who worked on the property, and Jingle’s Peppermint Stick came from a customer’s ninety-year-old mother who was eager to introduce her own kids to a flavor she loved as a child. “She came with her daughter and granddaughter, and we were creating and tweaking the flavor together,” says Eaglehouse. In the summertime, the peach, made with fresh fruit from a nearby farm, is an absolute must-try. Stroll around a little of the 103 acre property to spot cows, baby pigs, and a duck named Fluffy who desperately wants to be your friend.
Stop 4: Because you can’t subsist on ice cream all day (or can you?), stop for lunch at the Chester Springs outpost of Stickman Brews, a local brewery making small-batch Belgians, IPAs, and more. Kid-friendly fare including chicken tenders and a jumbo Bavarian pretzel, plus a stand-out grilled cheese with lump crabmeat and Old Bay, are all on the menu. Board games like Candyland and Connect Four will keep kids happy while you sample the beers.
Stop 5: Plan to spend a little extra time at the Lancaster Country-based Milkhouse at Oregon Dairy. The working farm hosts events throughout the year, including a free summer concert series, and a corn maze and pumpkin picking in the fall. Kids can blow off some sugar-fueled steam at the epic farm-themed playground with a milk carton sliding board, and meet Patches the pig and some pygmy goats. If you’re still full from lunch (and, um, three previous ice cream stops), get the Cow Lick—a mini scoop—for $1.
Stop 6: If you’ve been pacing yourself up until this point, you can throw it out the window at Pine View Dairy. Add one or two of their 25 flavors (Chocolate Marshmallow, Cherry Vanilla) to a handmade, chocolate-dipped waffle cone, or opt for a sundae, like the Haystack with caramel and pretzels, or the Cow Pie, with hot fudge and a whoopie pie. If you’re with a big group (or are just a total beast), the Trough has 12 scoops, eight toppings, and two “garnishes” aka cookies.
Stop 7: The smell of freshly-pressed waffle cones greets you at Lapp Valley Farm, and after you choose your scoops (try the old-fashioned flavors like Butter Brickle or Maple Walnut), you can visit and thank the Jersey cows who provide the milk. Before leaving, find the peacock that roams the grounds, and pick up a container of uber-fresh chocolate milk. (Which doesn’t, in fact, come from brown cows)