The Best Ice Cream Shops In The US, According To Tasting Table Staff

Going out for ice cream is one of the simplest joys life has to offer. The sweet, creamy confection has been pleasing American palates for generations. Cup or cone, vanilla or chocolate, rainbow sprinkles or candy shell — there's a flavor and topping out there for everyone. There's no wonder why we when enjoy the frozen treat after dinner, on the beach, at a ballgame, during an easy summertime stroll, or during National Ice Cream Day which is celebrated each year on the third Sunday in July.

No matter where you live or come from, odds are there's a specific ice cream shop that immediately comes to mind. Maybe it's an iconic hometown haunt or a world-famous confectionery in a nearby city. In an effort some of the country's top spots for a scoop, we asked Tasting Table writers and editors to weigh in with their favorites from coast to coast — and the results are pretty sweet.

Creole Creamery in New Orleans, Louisiana - Sarah O'Phelan

New Orleanians are spoiled for choice when it comes to dessert, from bread pudding to bananas foster to beignets (which are considered more of a breakfast item but make a perfectly sweet finish to any meal). And while sno-balls might be the go-to cool-down dessert in the Big Easy, sometimes you just get a hankering for a velvety, freezing-cold scoop of ice cream. When I'm in NOLA and that urge strikes me, I make my way to one of Creole Creamery's two local locations (there are additional shops in Metairie and Bay St. Louis, Mississippi).

The small-batch artisanal ice cream serves up the classics along with locally-inspired flavors like Creole cream cheese, king cake, and chicken & biscuits made with shards of crispy skin from Popeye's. However, the chef's creativity really shines through in the seasonal creations that alternate throughout the year. This year's spring offerings included magnolia flower, honeydew and pandan leaf, and champagne Violette. During Pride Month, it was hard to miss the double rainbow which featured a colorful combination of fruity pebbles cereal milk studded with candy-coated sunflower seeds, mochi bites, and edible glitter. My personal favorite? The mind-blowing Steen's oatmeal molasses cookie. It happens to be a seasonal flavor and regrettably is not always available; but if you ever see it in a Creole Creamery store or featured on Instagram, don't walk — run!

Glacier Ice Cream in Boulder, Colorado - Michelle Welsch

The frozen treats at Boulder's Glacier Ice Cream and Gelato are homemade and unmatched. Made with hand-squeezed citrus juices and seasonal ingredients, fresh tubs of gelatos, frozen yogurts, and ice creams are always packed to the brim. Since 2001, founder Mark Mallen has made sure crowd-favorites and more inventive flavors are consistently churned.No flavor is too outlandish for the Glacier team, and customers' suggestions often inspire new creations.

Rich, creamy ice creams can be ordered in cups and handmade cones, and satisfying scoops of Death by Chocolate, Key Lime Pie, and Chocolate Peanut Butter address specific dessert cravings. Yet even with a rotating menu, gluten-free Nutella and Peanut Butter Fudge have remained some of the top gelato flavors, and low-fat chai frozen yogurt and Valrhona Chocolate sorbet have claimed the hearts of those looking for lighter dessert options. With both new and old flavors on the menu, each visit seems like a real treat for those who enter the store. It's my go-to whenever I visit the area and it feels like coming home as soon as I step in the front door.

Herrell's in Northampton, Massachusetts - Elettra Pauletto

Some ice cream shops are great because they specialize in a few key offerings and do them better than anyone. Others impress because they have it all and do it with flair. Herrell's, in Northampton, Massachusetts, definitely falls within the latter category. They offer more than 400 different ice cream flavors, many of which rotate throughout the year, including apple cider (because this is New England), and since this is the land of the Red Sox, Damn Yankees Devilmint Stripe, a mixture of pureed Oreos, peppermint oil, and fudge swirls. In addition to dairy-free and sugar-free ice cream, as well as sorbet and sherbet, Herrell's offers an embarrassment of riches when it comes to toppings. Pretty much any American candy you can think of has been crushed up and placed in a container ready to be sprinkled on your ice cream. The fudge selection is no less voracious.

This might seem a little overwhelming at first, but don't worry: the lines tend to run out the door, even in the dead of winter, so you'll have plenty of time to choose your perfect ice cream cocktail. There is only one thing Harrell's doesn't have: caramel sauce. But as far as I'm concerned, that's quite alright. Instead, they have a butterscotch-like topper called penuche, which is made mainly with butter, milk, and brown sugar. It's served hot and gooey and makes the ideal accompaniment to pretty much any ice cream flavor.

Hornstra Farms in Norwell, Massachusetts - Lisa Matte

I'm not a betting person, but if I was, I'd wager that if Oprah had tasted Hornstra Farms Almond Joy ice cream, it would have been an instant addition to her iconic list of favorite things. Established in 1915 by Dutch immigrants Anske and Agnes Hornstra, the working dairy farm located in Norwell, Massachusetts is a family-run business currently managed by the founders' great-grandson, John Hornstra.

That, in itself, is a phenomenal accomplishment — especially at a time when working farms in suburban Boston are few and far between. But it's more than a farm; it's a destination. It's the kind of place that draws families to pile into the car to go out for an old-fashioned ice cream cone, then linger by the barn watching a herd of red and white Holsteins graze on a nearby hillside. From April to October, there's an almost-constant stream of patrons lined up at the seasonal ice cream window where Cow Tracks (vanilla ice cream with peanut butter cups and fudge swirl) and the aforementioned Almond Joy (vanilla ice cream with coconut, chocolate chunks, and almonds) are perennial favorites. Locals, myself included, wait all year for the return of summer showstoppers: peach and blueberry.

While the ice cream window is seasonal, the adjacent store — with a wall-sized glass window offering a glimpse into the on-site ice cream-making facility — is open year-round. By autumn, flavors shift to include pumpkin, apple pie, eggnog, and my personal favorite, peppermint. Insider tip: The holiday-only peppermint ice cream pie is nothing short of Christmas on a plate.

Kwality Ice Cream (various locations) - Kat Lieu

At the end of a homemade Indian feast, my beloved neighbor Mary from Hyderabad surprised me with a delightful pink ice cream infused with the tantalizing flavor of rose petals. I would have believed she home-churned the ice cream, but she revealed she had purchased this delicious gem at Kwality Ice Cream in Bellevue, the beautiful sister city of Seattle. 

While the greater Seattle region boasts its fair share of fantastic ice cream spots including Molly Moon's and SomiSomi), Kwality Ice Cream shines brilliantly with its unique blend of traditional Indian-inspired flavors, like paan masala, chikoo, and rajbhog, plus beloved Western classics like butterscotch, chocolate, and rum raisin. Beyond the scoops, I adore the Badshahi falooda drink, a refreshing rose shake topped with the South Asian frozen custard kulfi, falooda noodles, and basil seeds. And my husband loves the Gudbud ice cream, a delightful pink parfait, complete with a wafer roll.

I must reveal another thing about Kwality Ice Cream, which, beyond it's Bellvue location, has shops across the country: it doesn't offer samples for tasting. But for me, this only adds to the mini-chain's charms — the invitation to be adventurous and discover something new and delicious with each visit.

L'albero dei gelati in Brooklyn, New York - Hannah Berman

L'albero dei gelati is Italian for "the tree of gelato." The tree in question is actually a tiny gelateria located in Park Slope, Brooklyn. After living in Italy, I've tried my fair share of Italian-style ice cream, and this is the best gelato I've ever had. On hot summer nights as the sun begins to set, a line typically forms outside L'albero dei gelati composed of foodies on the hunt for intense, authentic gelato.

This shop was founded by siblings Monia and Fabio along with Monia's husband Alessandro, all of whom hail from the Lombardy region of Italy. They started making gelato in 2007, following recipes by Monia and Fabio's parents. Their first shop opened up in a small town near Milan called Brianza, and they have since expanded to have three stores in Italy. There's only one U.S. shop, and we're lucky enough to have it in Brooklyn.

Everything at L'albero dei gelati is beautifully crafted, but I never leave without getting the flavor Burro e Sale, or butter and salt. It's unorthodox, even in Italian gelaterie, but it works — the texture is just fabulously silky, and the salt cuts through the fat and leaves you thirsting for more. You can pair the burro e sale with either a fresh fruit flavor like fragola (strawberry) or blueberry, or collab it with one of L'albero's exquisitely-deep chocolate options. Either way, it's magnificent.

Leo's Ice Cream Company in Tabernacle New Jersey - Julia Collins

Leo's Famous Yum Yum needs to gain fame on a bigger scale, and not just so that it can live up to the name more. It's, put simply, a local legend. Everyone knows Leo's. But if you don't, perhaps after you've devoured the iconic wings at the Pic-A-Lilli Inn in Shamong, New Jersey, you should make the quick drive over to Tabernacle for an unforgettable dessert.

Officially called Leo's Ice Cream Company of Tabernacle, this spot makes the best ice cream and not-quite-water-ice around. In terms of classic ice cream, our ride-or-die is the cannoli flavor. With soft little bits of real cannoli shell sprinkled in, it's the classic Italian dessert in ice cream form. And if you're curious what all this "Yum Yum" business is about, the reference is to Leo's unique crossover between water ice, sherbet, and gelato. In essence, it's a creamier Italian ice, and plenty of people make the pilgrimage from across the Mid-Atlantic (and beyond) to get a taste. Seriously, it's that good. There is one other Leo's location currently in Atco serving up the same products like ice cream, milkshakes, and, of course, Yum Yum, but we're partial to the Tabernacle location based on the fun 1950s-esque decorations and amount of seating available. If you do pop by Leo's, take note that it's currently cash or check only, so be prepared.

Salem Valley Farms Ice Cream in Salem, Connecticut - Sara Klimek

Connecticut's best ice cream is nestled off Route 11 in Salem. Salem Valley Farms has been making quality hand-made ice cream since 1984 and regularly features long lines streaming into its dirt parking lot during the warm summer months. That's because the scoops on offer here have a distinctively dense consistency with various seasonal and signature flavors.

My all-time favorites from Salem Valley include Heavenly Hash, a chocolate ice cream with chocolate chips, walnuts, almonds, and marshmallows, and coffee cookie dough — the two signature ingredients are thankfully well represented. Salem Valley features dairy-free and sugar-free options too, but its dairy ice cream (which sometimes makes you feel like you're biting into butter — in a good way) makes this local ice cream joint stand out from its competitors in texture and flavor. Plus, there's something to be said about its ambiance, from the staff in their tie-dye tee shirts to children eating their dripping ice cream cones at the tiny wooden picnic tables built just for them. This is the all-American ice cream joint at its finest.

Salt & Straw (various locations) - Dani Zoeller

I've been an avid ice cream aficionado from a very young age, and there's nothing I enjoyed more than samples. As a young girl, Baskin-Robbins was my go-to ice cream spot, and I can still feel that tiny pink spoon in my hand. Eventually, my parents would have to limit my sampling spree, but not before I had savored as many flavors as possible. Fast forward many years, and I still love ice cream, reminiscent of that little girl's delight, but my absolute favorite shop is Salt & Straw.

My local spot is nestled in Disney Springs at Walt Disney World, but the high-end chain operates numerous shops across the country. The vibe here has a farmhouse feel and the aroma is absolutely divine thanks to the fresh waffle cones. For flavors, you'll find extraordinarily unique tastes like my personal favorite: Salty Donut Guava + Cheese. There are always rotating options that turn with the seasons and holidays but don't discount regular offerings like Chocolate Gooey Brownie or the signature Strawberry Honey Balsamic with Black Pepper. And if you have trouble deciding, Salt & Straw offers limitless flavor sampling, with each taste served on a petite metal spoon.

Tiny's Milk & Cookies in Austin & Houston, Texas - Crawford Smith

Tiny's Milk & Cookies is an offshoot of Houston's Tiny Boxwoods, which began life as a café at a plant nursery. Milk & Cookies has three locations in Houston and one in Austin, which I visited weekly for most of my five years living in that city. It's a cute little shed with a walk-up window serving some of the best ice cream I've ever tasted. The house-made ice cream offers rich dairy flavor and an impeccably smooth mouthfeel. But unlike other high-end ice cream places that serve a similarly decadent product, Tiny's doesn't try to get too weird with its flavors. Instead, it sticks to nostalgic classics like Milk & Cookies (its take on cookies & cream), mint chocolate chip, and vanilla.

The thing that makes this place special is the care it devotes to these comforting tastes. Its seasonal strawberry ice cream explodes with fruit flavor. The vanilla is complex and intense, nothing at all like bland grocery store vanilla ice cream. The birthday cake ice cream makes you feel like a kid licking the whisk all over again. An added plus is that Tiny's is also a top-notch bakery. I never left without a warm, fresh chocolate chip cookie to dip into my ice cream. The combo is the closest thing to dessert perfection I've ever experienced.

Victor Emporium in Victor, Idaho - Brandon Rich

As one of the largest national parks in the continental United States, there are a lot of ways to get to Yellowstone. My favorite, however, is a scenic byway that goes up the Idaho side of Teton Valley, following an old rail track. The first part of this route finds you on the less-showy side of the Teton mountains, but the Victor Emporium is a sweet reward.

There are actually several ice cream shops to choose from on your ride up this road, but the Emporium is one of two with an old-fashioned soda counter. As you wait for your order, you can saddle up and watch employees scoop, blend, or malt ice cream of various flavors. There's also an espresso machine, but know that the coffee is strong and without third-wave aspirations. A stroll around the eclectic shop, which sells a mix of seasonal trinkets, road trip keepsakes, and practical outdoor clothes, is always an interesting way to await your order.

The ice cream menu at Victor Emporium boasts the regular classics. The vanilla is brilliant, the chocolate is rich, and the marshmallow smacks of summer. What you really ought to go for is the huckleberry shake, made from a bushy, sweet-tart local mountain fruit. The Emporium serves the shake with a wide straw, so it's like a boba tea with tiny berries subbing in for the tapioca pearls. In the mountains, bears like to hoard the fruit for winter. Have a sip at the Emporium, and it's easy to see why.