By Valerie Plagge
July is National Ice Cream Month, and what better way to celebrate than by going on an Iowa Ice Cream Road Trip! Iowa is home to ice cream parlors that are both famous across the nation or just within their small town. Whatever the scale of familiarity, there are dairy farmers here in Iowa and across the country that are working hard to produce the quality milk to make everyone’s favorite summertime sweet treat.
Here are some of my family's favorite stops on our recent Ice Cream Road Trip:
Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlor, LeMars
The first stop on the Iowa Ice Cream Road Trip must start in the Ice Cream Capitol of the World, LeMars, home of Blue Bunny Ice Cream! The Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlor serves up 40 different flavors of their famous ice cream in a nostalgic setting. While you’re eating ice cream up at the bar or in one of their booths or tables you’ll enjoy looking around at the vast memorabilia. When you've finished your ice cream, head upstairs to check out their museum!
Dariette, Fort Dodge
The Dariette (pictured above) is located just behind the main drag in Downtown Fort Dodge and is worth finding. Their delicious soft serve ice cream menu changes weekly, and you’ll satisfy your cravings with their huge servings. You can enjoy your ice cream in their outdoor patio or take it to go via their drive-thru.
Snookies Malt Shop, Des Moines
A Beaverdale Neighborhood favorite, Snookies Malt Shop is known for their loyal customers – human and four-legged. That’s right, besides being known for the shakes and malts that people come from all over to eat, this seasonal ice cream shop also is known for their free puppy cones! This retro ice cream drive-in knows how to take care of their customers and add those extra little touches, like using short bread cookies and animal crackers as garnishes for their shakes, malts and ice cream dishes.
Over the Top, Pleasant Hill
Over the Top is known for their fresh, homemade ice cream. They work with Anderson Erickson Dairy (located just down the road!) to create their own, unique ice cream, which they mix in their shop. If you visit at the right time, you even can watch them make the ice cream through their picture window! Working with AE Dairy allows them to mix and create their 30 different flavors of ice cream in less than seven days from when the milk came from the cow! And if you can't decide between a couple of flavors for your ice cream cone, don’t worry! Over the Top adds a little “topper” scoop of ice cream “over the top” of each ice cream cone.
Sky Kone Ice Cream, Ackley
An Ice Cream Road Trip wouldn’t be complete without getting your ice cream from a giant ice cream cone! Sky Kone – which is a 20-foot-8-inch ice cream cone that is outfitted with a soft serve machine – has a primary location in Ackley, with another cone that travels around to different area festivals and events. This one-man stand offers Flavor-Burst soft serve ice cream, which gives just the right amount of added flavor to make your cone or cup unique and individually yours.
Viking Drive-Inn, Ventura
A favorite ice cream hot spot located on the west side of Clear Lake in Ventura, the Viking Drive-Inn is always full of people traveling via car, boat and bike. Inside the drive-inn is usually standing room only, unless you somehow snag one of the six spots up at the bar. There are picnic tables and benches outside for everyone else to enjoy their soft serve ice cream. Be sure to try their most popular flavor, Black Raspberry. Be prepared for big portion sizes!
Birdsall’s Ice Cream, Mason City
For 80 years, Birdsall’s Ice Cream has been serving sundaes, cones, shakes and banana splits near downtown Mason City. The original flavors that people from across northern Iowa have loved for generations remain the same today. There is a reason why their hot fudge sundae or seasonal fresh peach sundae are the top sellers! Birdsall’s success is clearly due to their delicious, homemade ice cream and wonderful atmosphere.
Hansen’s Dairy, Hudson, Waterloo and Cedar Falls
The best part of Hansen’s Dairy, located outside of Hudson, is that you can literally pick up your ice cream at their dairy and kangaroo farm and creamery (which they offer tours of, too!). If you can’t make it out to their farm, they serve ice cream and other dairy products in two shops located in nearby Waterloo and Cedar Falls. Hansen’s Dairy hard ice cream is fresh, rich and creamy.
Heyn’s Ice Cream, Iowa City
Heyn’s Ice Cream makes more than 40 different flavors of hard ice cream right in their store. With many unique flavor creations, such as Monster Mash and Kara’s Creation, it can be hard to make your choice! Be sure to ask for a sample to help you choose your favorite. At Heyn’s you won’t have a problem finding something that fits your taste buds, you may have a hard time making a selection!
The Whippy Dip, Decorah
Finally, an Iowa Ice Cream Road Trip wouldn’t be complete without a trip to northeast Iowa to the Whippy Dip. This seasonal walk-up ice cream stand keeps their soft serve ice cream simple with classic vanilla and chocolate, but lets you make your dish unique by providing many mix-ins. If you are a cookie dough ice cream fan, this is the place to get it. Go for a cookie dough tornado where they mix in a slab of cookie dough into your ice cream!