When it's time to get your licks in these days, there's no need to stick with the old standbys of vanilla and chocolate or even cookie dough and cookies and cream. Whether they’re soft-serve or hard-packed, the flavors at these 50 ice cream shops range from blue cheese, habanero, and wasabi to bourbon, beer, and lobster. The very thought of some of these unique ice cream treats is almost enough to give you brain freeze.
TROWBRIDGE'S ICE CREAM AND SANDWICH SHOP | FLORENCE, ALABAMA
Locals flock to Trowbridge's Ice Cream and Sandwich Shop, a historic ice cream shop-turned-lunch-counter, for scoops of orange-pineapple ice cream, the signature flavor created in the early 1900s. Feeling ambitious? Try an old-fashioned ice cream soda, too.
HOT LICKS HOMEMADE ICE CREAM | FAIRBANKS, ALASKA
Hot Licks Homemade Ice Cream has been making small-batch, super-premium ice cream since 1986. Many flavors are locally inspired, such as Alaska blueberry, made with handpicked wild blueberries from interior Alaska, and Arctic Refuge Wildberry Snap, a vanilla ice cream base with ginger snaps and equal parts Alaska blueberry and cranberry purée swirled in. Expect 15 or so rotating flavors at any given time.
SWEET REPUBLIC | SCOTTSDALE AND PHOENIX, ARIZONA
Offbeat flavors reign supreme at Sweet Republic, which specializes in artisan, handcrafted creations such as blue cheese, date and avocado, and bacon and habanero. Homemade hand-torched marshmallow can top any sundae for a small additional charge.
SHAKE'S FROZEN CUSTARD | FAYETTEVILLE, ARKANSAS
Egg yolk is the key ingredient giving Shake's Frozen Custard its thick, creamy consistency. This Fayetteville, Arkansas-based chain serves it up in every form imaginable, from sundaes such as the Bopper (with caramel, hot fudge, roasted pecans, and three cherries) to shakes, cakes, floats, and concretes (frozen custard blended with toppings).
BI-RITE CREAMERY | SAN FRANCISCO
There are usually about 20 different offerings at Bi-Rite Creamery, a popular shop with two locations in San Francisco. Sam's Sundae dresses up chocolate ice cream with bergamot olive oil, Maldon sea salt, and whipped cream, while flavors such as honey lavender, black sesame, and balsamic strawberry are presented in cones or cups. Avoid the line by opting for soft-serve versions offered at a separate window.
SWEET COW ICE CREAM | DENVER
Savor unlimited samples when deciding on a flavor at Sweet Cow Ice Cream, which also has locations in Louisville and Boulder. Choices range from oatmeal cookie and Ozo coffee (made with beans from a Boulder coffee house) to the more adventurous kung pao cashew and Beam and Coke (an adults-only pick). House-made waffle cones and fresh whipped cream step up the experience.
BUTTONWOOD FARM ICE CREAM | GRISWOLD, CONNECTICUT
You can't get much closer to the source than a dairy farm. Buttonwood Farm Ice Cream serves up ice cream from a walk-up window from March through October. Go when thousands of giant sunflowers are in bloom (call for dates) and order a scoop of sunflower, made with pralines and sunflower seeds.
WOODSIDE FARM CREAMERY | HOCKESSIN, DELAWARE
Woodside Farm Creamery has been a family-operated dairy farm since 1796. Ice cream is made fresh on the farm from the milk of the resident Jersey cows, and flavors include "motor oil" (coffee with green caramel and fudge swirl), "dirt" (chocolate ice cream with crushed Oreos and gummy worms) and peanut butter and jelly. Don't be nervous about the cow pie sundae — it's made from brownies.
JAXSON'S ICE CREAM PARLOUR | DANIA BEACH, FLORIDA
Ice cream at the nostalgia-themed Jaxson's Ice Cream Parlour is made on site with plenty of flavors to pick from, with cinnamon and lime flavors known to make appearances. Parties of four or more and an "appetite for the unusual" can order the Kitchen Sink: The soda jerks on hand unleash their imaginations, and the result is a surprise.
LEOPOLD'S ICE CREAM | SAVANNAH, GEORGIA
BUBBIES HOMEMADE ICE CREAM & DESSERT | HONOLULU
The reason to visit Bubbies Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert is the mochi ice cream. This Hawaiian dessert spot makes 20 flavors of the confection, a ball of ice cream encased in sweetened rice, including green tea and passion fruit. Chocolate lovers can try the strawberry dark chocolate chip mochi or one of five other chocolate-wrapped flavors.
MARGIE'S CANDIES | CHICAGO
A Chicago institution, the old-fashioned ice cream shop Margie's Candies has a massive selection of sundae options using all-natural, all-kosher ingredients. Feeling decadent? The turtle sundae has two big scoops of ice cream topped with peanuts, caramel sauce, whipped cream, a cherry, and a gravy boat of fudge brownie sauce on the side.
IVANHOE'S | UPLAND, INDIANA
Halfway between Indianapolis and Fort Wayne, the Indiana landmark Ivanhoe's serves more than 100 different sundaes and 100 shake variations. Don't know what to pick? Try the huge strawberry shortcake with ice cream and whipped cream or, for a unique twist on a favorite, the peanut butter and jelly shake.
WHITEY'S ICE CREAM | DAVENPORT, IOWA
Sweet, cold treats at Whitey's Ice Cream have been making customers happy since 1933, when the first store opened across the Mississippi River in Moline, Illinois. Now the chain has locations throughout the Quad Cities. Among the enticing seasonal choices, such as lemon in summer and carrot cake in fall, is Sgt. Camo, a camouflage-patterned ice cream made from graham cracker and marshmallow ice creams with a ribbon of fudge.
BRAUM'S | EMPORIA, KANSAS
Braum's claims to be the only major ice cream maker in the country to milk its own cows — and guarantees optimum freshness by opening stores only within a 300-mile radius of its farm. While freshness is serious business, flavors are not. Try the snickerdoodle or the birthday cake, an electric-blue confection with ribbons of marshmallow and pieces of pound cake throughout.
CHANEY'S DAIRY FARM | BOWLING GREEN, KENTUCKY
Made on the premises in a barn owned by the family since 1888, Chaney's Dairy Farm serves up the classics with a few unique twists. Try the bourbon crunch for a sweet taste of Kentucky's beloved whiskey, or the mint julep, a minty ice cream with Guernsey chocolate flakes and Maker's Mark.
CREOLE CREAMERY | NEW ORLEANS
With flavors such as Thai basil coconut, king cake, and cantaloupe, it's hard to choose only one. That may be why the menu at Creole Creamery includes the Tchoupitoulas. With eight scoops of ice cream and a choice of eight toppings served with whipped cream, sprinkles, cherries, and wafers, this sundae named after a local street is more than a mouthful. Those who finish it without help earn a spot in the store's hall of fame.
BEN & BILL'S CHOCOLATE EMPORIUM | BAR HARBOR, MAINE
While Ben & Bill's Chocolate Emporium carries the usual suspects when it comes to ice cream, it created one flavor to prove the ice cream really is made in-house at the Bar Harbor store: lobster. Cooked lobster meat from a local lobster pound is chopped, buttered, and folded into butter-flavored ice cream.
MOORENKO'S ICE CREAM | SILVER SPRING, MARYLAND
While grown-ups may gravitate toward the crème fraiche or Irish stout flavors, Moorenko's Ice Cream has one flavor that's likely to be a big hit with the kids: cotton candy gummy bear. It isn't always on the menu at the small ice cream parlor, but look for it when little ones are begging for a sugar hit.
FOUR SEAS ICE CREAM | CENTERVILLE, MASSACHUSETTS
With 16 percent butterfat in its ice cream, Four Seas serves up decadent treats to Cape Cod residents and tourists. For a taste of local flavor, try the cranberry sherbet, but the ginger, penuche pecan, and black raspberry ice creams are tasty too.
MOOMER'S HOMEMADE ICE CREAM | TRAVERSE CITY, MICHIGAN
Located on a dairy farm, the family-run Moomer's Homemade Ice Cream entices customers with the salty-sweet flavor combo of peanut butter Oreo as well as Cherries Moobilee, a black cherry ice cream with fresh cherries, chocolate fudge swirl, and brownies.
IZZY'S ICE CREAM | MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA
Izzy's in the Twin Cities makes ice cream in small batches, so sometimes favorites sell out quickly (the flavor selections are updated every three minutes online). Keep an eye out for Irish Moxie, a coffee ice cream with Oreo and Heath bar pieces plus Jameson Irish whiskey.
AREA 51 ICE CREAM | HERNANDO, MISSISSIPPI
From blackberry to caramelized banana, every flavor is a winner at Area 51 Ice Cream. The artisan ice cream is made in small batches and the flavors change daily, so if a favorite such as maple with candied bacon pops up, order a scoop while it's around.
GLACÉ ARTISAN ICE CREAM | KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI
The shop Glacé Artisan Ice Cream touts unlikely flavor pairings such as goat cheese and cherry, lemongrass and ginger, and rosemary caramel. For something else unexpected, consider a salted pretzel root beer float.
BIG DIPPER ICE CREAM | HELENA, MONTANA
People line up at Big Dipper Ice Cream for scoops of everything from basic vanilla to the daily specials, which can range from pineapple jalapeño sorbet to Mexican coffee and strawberry-huckleberry. No matter what, it's sure to be good — the chain, which also has locations in Missoula and Billings, was named one of America's best by Food & Wine magazine.
TED AND WALLY'S PREMIUM HOMEMADE ICE CREAM | OMAHA, NEBRASKA
The old-school parlor Ted and Wally's Premium Homemade Ice Cream makes super-premium, up to 20 percent butterfat ice cream from scratch. The flavors number a whopping 1,600 and some, such as circus popcorn and Nebraska sweet corn, are found nowhere else.
LUV-IT FROZEN CUSTARD | LAS VEGAS
Just off the Las Vegas Strip, Luv-It Frozen Custard offers two rotating flavors in addition to chocolate and vanilla. Keep an eye out for celebrities and creative flavors such as Sin-a-Buns. Lush, creamy, and freshly made every day, this is custard as it should be.
ANNABELLE'S NATURAL ICE CREAM | PORTSMOUTH, NEW HAMPSHIRE
Annabelle's Natural Ice Cream has more than 30 flavors of natural, super-premium ice cream, so picking just one can be tough. Chocolate and nut lovers are sure to like the cleverly named Mint Summer's Night Dream (mint-chocolate ice cream with dark and white chocolate) and Yellow Brick Road (vanilla ice cream with roasted pecans, praline pecans, and caramel).
THE BENT SPOON | PRINCETON, NEW JERSEY
For unusual ice cream, head to The Bent Spoon. Think creative and seasonal flavors such as ricotta pistachio, habanero and heirloom tomato, and lavender mascarpone.
I SCREAM ICE CREAM | ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO
The Albuquerque staple I Scream Ice Cream is known for its cornucopia of 32 flavors, such as rum black cherry and raspberry chocolate chunk, and 32 toppings, including Fruit Loops and Hot Tamales. The first topping is free.
AMPLE HILLS CREAMERY | BROOKLYN, NEW YORK
The Brooklyn-based ice cream chain Ample Hills Creamery specializes in "whimsical" flavors such as Oooey Gooey Butter Cake and Salted Crack Caramel. The ice cream base of each flavor is pasteurized on site, allowing for pretzel-infused ice cream in The Munchies and marshmallow-infused ice cream in the Snap, Mallow, Pop flavor.
THE PARLOUR | DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA
The Parlour in Durham uses high-quality ingredients ranging from Nielsen-Massey vanilla paste and Callebaut chocolate to fresh blueberries and real ginger purée. Any flavor will stand out, from Key lime and Vietnamese coffee to Salty Malty Vanilla and salted butter caramel.
PRIDE DAIRY | BOTTINEAU, NORTH DAKOTA
The silky-smooth ice cream at Pride Diary is so good that Canadians have been known to cross the border for a cone. Try the juneberry, a local favorite, with the fruit used in the ice cream picked fresh in the nearby Turtle Mountains.
JENI'S SPLENDID ICE CREAMS | COLUMBUS, OHIO
The gourmet ice cream from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams is made from local, grass-fed cows’ milk and all natural ingredients. The chain's scoop shops serve delectable treats such as ylang ylang and fennel, birch and marshmallow, and "tangier than expected" buttermilk frozen yogurt.
SCOOPS AND GRINDS | COLLINSVILLE, OKLAHOMA
Flavors such as candied bacon and brownie batter put the small-town ice cream shop Scoops and Grinds on the map, but don't stop there. Try a scoop of Little Boy Blue (blue cotton candy) or a pumpkin pie shake.
SALT AND STRAW | PORTLAND, OREGON
Blue cheese, wasabi and fish sauce, and caramel with palm sugar are a few of the uncommon standouts at the buzzy ice cream shop Salt and Straw. It drew fame for offering ice cream flights — just like beer or wine tasting flights, but creamier and far more delicious. The store is also in Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego.
RITA'S | PHILADELPHIA
Philadelphians consume copious amounts of water ice in the summer months, and Rita's is a local favorite. The sweet, dairy-free treat comes in flavors such as cherry and cotton candy. Cream ice, frozen custard, and gelati (layers of water ice and custard) are also popular.
GRAY'S ICE CREAM | TIVERTON, RHODE ISLAND
Gray's Ice Cream makes its confections using the shop's own cows' milk and serves ice cream, sherbet, and frozen yogurt 365 days a year. Don't miss the mocha chip or special flavors such as Indian pudding.
KIRK'S ICE CREAM PARLOR | MYRTLE BEACH, SOUTH CAROLINA
Portions are generous at Kirk's Ice Cream Parlor, which has been in business for more than 30 years. It serves up flavors such as banana pudding and caramel pretzel, as well as sundaes, shakes, floats, and other ice cream novelties. Want something a little healthier? Try a frozen banana.
SDSU DAIRY SALES BAR | BROOKINGS, SOUTH DAKOTA
Located on South Dakota State University's campus, the SDSU Dairy Sales Bar has a menu of 60 regular ice cream flavors, made from milk sourced just a mile away. Popular flavors include caramel apple and cookies 'n' cream — a flavor SDSU claims to have invented back in 1979.
MIKE'S ICE CREAM | NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE
Mike's Ice Cream is best known for its generous servings, old-school atmosphere, and killer scoops. The space is small and lines can be long, but it's worth the wait, with red velvet and Tennessee fudge among the top picks.
AMY'S ICE CREAMS | AUSTIN, TEXAS
The house specialty at Amy's Ice Creams is a sweet, rich, and simple Mexican vanilla, but there are more than 350 ice creams in constant rotation at the 14-store chain — boozy flavors among them — to spice up the basic range of vanillas, chocolates, and coffee appearing daily.
FARR BETTER ICE CREAM | OGDEN, UTAH
The Farr Better Ice Cream Parlor lures chocolate lovers with a brownie sundae made with creamy French vanilla ice cream, homemade brownies, and whipped cream. Almond Divinity and Caramel Caribou are more unusual customer favorites.
LU LU | BRISTOL, VERMONT
Small batches made from the freshest, locally sourced ingredients — including eggs, fresh herbs, milk, cream, and berries from nearby farms — would be enough to put Lu Lu on the map. It even uses house-made Oreo-style cookies for a cookies and cream flavor. But it's creative, oddball flavors such as Slumdog Millionaire (curried peanut butter) and Roman Holiday (grapefruit ice cream spiked with Aperol) that stand out.
ISLAND CREAMERY | CHINCOTEAGUE, VIRGINIA
The Island Creamery on Chincoteague Island was one of TripAdvisor's top 10 ice cream places in the country in 2015. One favorite is Marsh Mud, a dark chocolate delight, but Island Creamery takes it further with Muddy Butter — Marsh Mud ice cream with a peanut butter swirl and Nutter Butter pieces.
FULL TILT ICE CREAM | SEATTLE
Beer and peanut ice cream? It sounds crazy, but the flavor (concocted in honor of the Seattle Mariners) found its fans. Full Tilt Ice Cream never tires of offering new flavors to try, such as the recently added dill pickle ice cream.
AUSTIN'S HOMEMADE ICE CREAM | KENOVA, WEST VIRGINIA
Austin's Homemade Ice Cream comes by its nostalgic feel honestly: It opened in 1947. Be sure to try the freshly made banana or piña colada flavors, or go a different direction with the cinnamon taco, made of cinnamon ice cream, honey, chocolate syrup, and chocolate chips. The "shell" is a waffle bowl.
CHOCOLATE SHOPPE ICE CREAM CO. | MADISON, WISCONSIN
Searching through the 100 or so flavors at the Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream Co., a Madison institution, can be head-spinning. In addition to classics such as black licorice, there's This $&@! Just Got Serious (salted caramel ice cream with sea salt fudge and salted cashews) and Kitty Kitty Bang Bang (cheesecake ice cream with a raspberry ripple, Oreos, and soft chocolate chunks). The winner of this year's flavor-creation contest is Zanzibar Chocolate, made with three kinds of cocoa.
MOO'S GOURMET ICE CREAM | JACKSON HOLE, WYOMING
This ice cream shop serves all-natural, all-organic flavors, plus sorbets made with 99 percent fruit and 1 percent cane sugar. The Moo's Gourmet Ice Cream menu is packed with everything from chocolate cabernet sauvignon to chocolate macadamia coconut toffee crunch.