The 20 Oldest Ice Cream Shops in America
America's love affair with ice cream goes back more than 100 years. For proof, look no further than these ice cream shops that have been scooping up fresh flavors longer than any others in the nation. From shops that brightened people's days during the Depression to those that opened as far back as the 19th century, each one offers a taste of that delicious history.
City: St. Louis
Ted Drewes has been serving St. Louisans delicious frozen custards and sundaes on Grand Boulevard since 1931. They've since added a location, started offering "concretes" -- malts so thick you can turn them upside-down without consequence -- and made an annual tradition of selling Christmas trees. Don't neglect to enhance your sundae with items from their extensive toppings list.
City: Girard, Illinois
Near the Chicago end of Route 66, Doc's pays homage to its time as a pharmacy with a museum of herbal remedies and elixirs. The peppermint-striped shop now specializes in ice cream and soda floats fresh from the tap, with a selection of Route 66-themed beers catering to older guests.
City: Tiverton, Rhode Island
With nearly a century of ice cream-making history behind them, the Tiverton location of Gray's remains open year-round, while the dockside shop in Bristol is seasonal. Both are known for their generous scoops of classic ice cream flavors and extra-thick malts.
James and Mary Klavon's original ice cream parlor and apothecary opened in 1923 and while it closed in 1979, two decades later the shop was resurrected by their grandchildren, who restored classic features like marble countertops, wooden phone booths, and bar stools fashioned to look like bottle caps. Now under new ownership, Klavon's sells paninis in addition to soda fountain floats and creative sundae styles like pineapple upside-down cake.
The first Graeter's ice cream shop opened in Hyde Park using a unique French Pot process to craft sundaes and other sweets, and they kept the process even as they expanded to more and more retail locations throughout the Midwest. Be sure to try their ice creams made with real fruit and double-dip sodas, made with sparkling soda water, a choice of fountain syrups, and a scoop of vanilla.
City: Lansing, Illinois
The founder of this ice cream stand moved to the United States from Greece at the age of 9, at which point he promptly began work scooping ice cream, laying the foundation for his own shop. The shop relocated from South Chicago to its current location, where the third-generation owners of Gayety's still use the original equipment for making their ice cream and homemade chocolates.
City: Savannah, Georgia
Three brothers from Greece developed the perfect formula for ice cream before opening their iconic Savannah shop Leopold's. The shop closed following the founders' deaths in 1966, but was resurrected by one of their sons in 2004, in a new location but with much of the same old-fashioned equipment. Be sure to try the signature flavor Tutti Frutti, as well as other unique offerings like ginger and lemon custard.
City: San Francisco
The current owners of San Francisco's oldest ice cream parlor purchased the shop only in 2002, at which point they installed a full-service kitchen now known for tasty, vegan-friendly breakfast options (starting at $8.50) that tend to draw a crowd. But they retained the dining room dating to 1948, and the soda fountain offerings of ice cream sodas and old-fashioned shakes, dating back to the fountain's founding.
City: South Pasadena, California
This working pharmacy on Route 66 in South Pasadena retains the look and feel of an old-fashioned corner drug store, soda fountain, and town gathering place, specializing in sandwiches as well as decadent sundaes. Fair Oaks also includes a candy shop and gift shop with toys and bath products.
City: St. Louis
This candy shop has been family-owned since it was first opened by a pair of Greek immigrants, though their descendants have become just as famous for their lunch as their desserts -- their thick-stacked sourdough sandwiches were even featured on the Food Network. But save room for a homemade chocolate or ice-cream-based beverage, as it's family policy that no one leaves without dessert.
City: Fredericksburg, Virginia
An old brick corner drugstore in downtown Fredericksburg, Goolrick's is the nation's oldest continuously operating soda fountain. It's locally renowned for its pies a la mode, malts, and real, fresh-mixed cherry cokes, best complemented with a scoop of vanilla for a float.
This nostalgic eatery still serves ice cream sundaes and malted shakes in frosty glasses to guests sitting atop spinning barstools, all as a throwback to early 20th-century soda jerk trends. The Highland Park Soda Fountain is also a fun choice for breakfast, with prices starting at $4.50 for eggs and toast, or lunch, starting at $4.29 for grilled cheese and $4.50 for a chili hot dog.
City: Queens, New York
Eddie's Sweet Shop has been a staple of Queens' Forest Hills neighborhood since the corner store first began offering its assortment of 20 old-fashioned ice cream flavors. Though ownership has changed, Eddie's retains the atmosphere of a classic soda fountain serving malted shakes and egg cream sodas with flavored syrups added to the sodas on command.
City: Norfolk, Virginia
Abe Doumar invented the world's first ice cream cone rolling machine in 1905, and it's still functioning today at the most enduring location of his ice cream stands, which opened in 1907 and relocated after a hurricane in 1933. The curb-service restaurant now offers hot dogs, hamburgers, and barbecue specials, but the main attraction remains its fresh-rolled ice cream cones and sundaes, starting at $2.10 for one scoop.
City: New Orleans
The ice-cream making techniques at this parlor date back even further than its original opening. Founder Angelo Brocato mastered the art of confections in Sicily before popularizing Italian gelato in the heart of the French Quarter. The shop relocated to Mid-City and was shuttered for a year after Hurricane Katrina, but then reopened to offer old favorites like its original flavor torroncino, made with vanilla, cinnamon, and ground almonds.
City: State College, Pennsylvania
Otherwise called the Berkey Creamery, Penn State's Department of Food Science has run this creamery, producing, selling, and even studying ice cream since 1892, though it didn't begin retail sales until 1904. The creamery now produces more than 100 flavors of ice cream -- from Death by Chocolate to Alumni Swirl -- available to purchase online or in-person at its shop in the Food Science Building.
City: Columbus, Indiana
Reopened in 2006, this stately soda fountain was known simply as "The Greeks," owing to the founders' nation of origin, upon first opening in 1900. Zaharakos' 40-foot-long soda fountain is only one of the shop's many antiques harkening back to the turn of the century. Try a cheeseburger and banana split downstairs before perusing additional antiques in the upstairs museum.
City: Auburn, Alabama
This Auburn landmark was founded by a halfback on the university's first football team on the edge of campus, for whom the spot is now named -- Toomer's Corner. Toomer's changed ownership and closed for renovations only briefly in 1999, and now continues to sell traditional lunch specials, plus desserts like soda fountain shakes and sundaes, all of which cost less than $5.
City: Oakland, California
The oldest ice cream shop still operating west of the Mississippi River, Fenton's Creamery was opened by Elbridge Seth Fenton, who ran the shop with the help of his 13 children. The shop relocated within Oakland in 1961 but remains under Fenton's family ownership. The flavor Rocky Road is said to have been invented at the original Fenton's location, so their version is definitely worth a try.
Lewis Dubois Bassett began making ice cream with a mule-powered butter churn in 1861 before opening his own shop in the Reading Terminal Market. The shop, now run by his great-great grandsons, is typically crowded with tourists and locals eager to taste flavors like butter almond and mango, all made with 16 percent butterfat instead of the usual 10 percent.