This Rural Vermont Ice Cream Stand Is My Favorite Part of Summer

A childhood spent in southern Vermont meant frequent trips to Wilcox, where the world's best ice cream sits on the edge of a farm.

Ice Cream
Photo: Zakharova_Natalia/Getty Images

Every summer since I was born, I've hopped in the car with my parents to make the three-hour drive to southern Vermont, spending my childhood tubing along the Battenkill River and shooting down the waterslide at Bromley Mountain. Some of my favorite memories live there, all rolling mountains and fresh air that just smells green — but when we're crossing the state line between New York and Vermont, I'm not thinking about the scenery. Instead, I immediately ask, "So, when are we going to Wilcox?"

Therein lies my dearest summer tradition. Not fireworks during the fourth of July, or burgers charring irresistibly on the grill — rather, visits to a tiny, blink-and-you'll-miss-it roadside ice cream stand off route 7A near downtown Manchester. When I say Wilcox's Premium Ice Cream is the best ice cream I've ever had, I mean it. Each flavor is impossibly rich and creamy, piled high in generous scoops; although you'll be tempted to eat it quickly as it melts down the side of your cone, it's a crime not to savor it. When I was younger, I was all about chocolate, staining a pile of t-shirts and covering my arms in gloves of sweet, sticky brown dribbles. (I was eventually told to switch to a dish, since I dropped too many cones on myself.) Now, as an adult, I've branched out to trying some of their signature flavors, like maple gingersnap, mocha mud pie, and black raspberry. The stand is only open a few months out of the year, and its fleeting appearance is my own barometer for warm weather. When cars line up outside, I know I'm in for yet another summer camped out at the picnic table, an ice cream mustache inevitably (and happily) smeared over my upper lip as my mom laughs and reaches for a napkin.

Wilcox's Ice Cream
Bridget Hallinan

Part of what makes the ice cream so incredible is the history — the Wilcox family has been running the ice cream and specialty food business for five generations now, and they started making ice cream in Manchester Village in 1928, according to the Manchester Journal. (At the time, the ice was harvested from Equinox Pond!) And while you can now buy their ice cream in stores all over the state, including Hannaford, Price Chopper, and Shaw's, nothing compares to the tiny farm stand. Daily flavors are simply outlined on chalkboards; the one-room shack is operated by a single employee, who always greets you with a smile and is happy to give recommendations. You'll agonize over picking between sea salt caramel and maple walnut (this is Vermont, after all); classics like cookie dough and French Vanilla also deserve a shoutout. The atmosphere is all part of the experience, too — it smells a bit like cows and fields, given that you're on the edge of a farm, but that only makes the ice cream seem all the more fresh.

Although I've eagerly told friends and family alike about the glory that is Wilcox, shouting it out to a larger audience initially gave me pause — selfishly. What if the small road becomes overwhelmed with traffic, and a line stretches out to the main road? What if we have to wait an hour for our double scoops? What if — heaven forbid — they run out of ice cream? Irrational worries aside, I know that this little gem deserves to be celebrated by people all over the country — nay, the world. It's Vermont-made with love, and after over two decades visiting, every bite still brings me back to my days as a little toddler, covered in ice cream battle scars without a care in the world. I should mention that there's another Vermont staple, Ben & Jerry's, minutes away down the road — but as much as I love a pint of New York Super Fudge Chunk, only mocha mud pie can make my heart sing.

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