One of the great joys of travel is discovering iconic regional foods – and, during hot weather trips, that means ice cream. Nothing beats the comforting and smile-inducing experience of stumbling upon a great neighborhood ice cream shop.
For many ice cream aficionados, visiting their favorite find is a highly anticipated summer tradition. Last year, though, because of COVID restrictions, they missed out on their annual fix and are hoping to make up for lost licks.
Luckily, many local legends are now delivering nationwide and gaining fans who may never be able to visit them in person. Here are some of the richest, creamiest ice creams out there. Order now, and they’ll show up at your front door, safe and frozen.
You’ll want to keep a pint or six in your freezer at all times so you’ll never have to scream for ice cream again.
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams – Columbus, Ohio
A pioneer of the artisan ice cream movement, Jeni’s has been raising the bar for almost two decades. Jeni herself is a James Beard Award winner for her mouthwatering cookbooks and you can enjoy many of her innovative recipes – Brambleberry Crisp, Skillet Cinnamon Roll, Sweet Cream Biscuits & Peach Jam – by the pint.
All natural and super smooth, Jeni’s is splendid, indeed. Do yourself a f(l)avor and order a subscription to their Pint of the Month Club so you always have something to look forward to.
Salt & Straw – Portland, Oregon
Started by two cousins focused on building community – what brings people together like ice cream? – Portland-based Salt & Straw is an ode to collaborations. Not only do they work with local farmers, chefs and makers, but they also bring together ingredients like Pear & Blue Cheese and Offlimits’ Dash Cold Brew and Cocoa Crisps in unexpected – and unexpectedly delicious – combinations.
All the ice cream is made by hand in small batches, and the Honey Lavender and Salted, Malted, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough are just two of their must-try indulgences.
Penn State Berkey Creamery – University Park, Pennsylvania
Reason enough to attend Penn State, Berkey Creamery has been a school tradition since 1865. Want to talk about fresh? Most of the milk used in their renowned ice cream comes from the university’s own 210 dairy cattle, making this a true cow-to-cone process.
More than two dozen flavors, including the popular Alumni Swirl and Happy Happy Joy Joy, are available online. For former students, there’s a real sense of nostalgia in Grilled Stickies, the cinnamon bun-flavored ice cream version of a Penn State staple featuring sticky bun dough pieces and a cinnamon streusel swirl, or Mint Nittany, which pays tribute to the official school mascot. For everyone else, there’s just a real sense of bliss.
McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams – Santa Barbara, California
McConnell’s has pretty much perfected ice cream over the past 70 years, and one reason why is that they’re also a dairy. Family-run for three generations, they make everything from scratch using only the simplest, cleanest ingredients.
You’ll definitely want to grab limited editions such as Peanut Butter & Jelly Sando and SeaVees Sprinkled with Pride, and you’ll be grateful that flavors including Sprinkle Cake, Toasted Coconut Almond Chip and Eureka Lemon & Marionberries are ready to order whenever you crave them, a.k.a. always.
Graeter’s – Cincinnati, Ohio
Louis Charles Graeter started hand-crafting ice cream in French Pots and selling it out of carts in Cincinnati in 1870. His family is still making ice cream in small batch French Pots a century and a half later, thank goodness, and you can raise a spoon to celebrate with Graeter’s sprinkle-y 150th Birthday Cake special edition.
Really, all their flavors are celebration-worthy, from their signature Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip to the new Caramel Macchiato to the bonus Midnight Snack – malt-flavored ice cream with chocolate-covered pretzels, mini peanut butter cups and brownies mixed in, and a name likely to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Atomic Creamery – Newport Beach, California
Veteran-owned and -operated, Atomic Creamery flash freezes their organic ice cream with liquid nitrogen and uses hand-selected, local ingredients for rich, creamy deliciousness. As if that wasn’t enough, they then add a special little gift in most pints (vanilla stays pure).
For example, the lemony Closed on Sunday is topped with a lemon candy slice and when you open Atomic Birthday Bomb, you’re greeted with a little piece of birthday cake. These act as a delightful preview of the joy your taste buds are about to experience.
Bassetts – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
A beloved Philadelphia landmark since 1861, family-owned Bassetts is America’s oldest ice cream company. They’ve been making ice cream since Abraham Lincoln’s first term in office and, five generations later, they continue to come up with yummy new super premium ice cream flavors such as their latest, Chocolate Fudge Brownie.
Sure, they have a storied past, but their slogan “Rich in History, Richer in Flavor” is immediately apparent with one taste of classics, including Salted Caramel Pretzel, Coffee Fudge Truffle and their bestselling Vanilla.
Clementine’s Creamery – St. Louis, Missouri
Oprah called it “the sexiest ice cream.” You’ll call it amazing. Featuring an eclectic menu of Naughty and Nice flavors, Clementine’s is the epitome of hedonism. In fact, the Nice flavors – like the triple dark chocolatey Midnight Pleasures and Gooey Butter Cake, which pays tribute to the iconic St. Louis pastry – are so decadent and tempting, they should be considered naughty, especially because they defy you to resist them.
Everything is handcrafted and made from scratch, with the Naughty flavors, including Boozy Banana Rum and Chocolate Cabernet, infused with alcohol. Resistance is futile.
Bridgeman’s – Woodbury, Minnesota
In 1883, Henry Bridgeman started his dairy business by delivering fresh milk door to door from a goat cart. In 1936, his two sons decided to go out on their own and open the original Bridgeman’s Ice Cream Shoppe. Within 18 months, they had six stores and the rest is history.
Still family-owned, Bridgeman’s was named the #1 New MN State Fair Food in 2016 and was invited to cater the NFL Tailgate Party for the Super Bowl two years later. Get a taste of their Midwestern hospitality with welcoming flavors including Banana Buttercup, Licorice and Peppermint Bon Bon.
Killer Creamery – Boise, Idaho
With flavors like Peanut Blubber and Brownie Points, you would never guess that this tasty ice cream is not just all-natural but is also gluten-free, low-carb and zero-sugar. What?! Founded by a food scientist looking for a dessert that would fit into the ketogenic diet, the ice cream is guilt-free so you can buy an extra pint or two of treats like Jam Session and No Judge Mint.
Despite its killer taste, the brand name actually honors the whales who benefit from the company’s philanthropic efforts.
10Best is a part of the USA TODAY Network — providing an authentically local point of view on destinations around the world — in addition to travel and lifestyle advice.