We Challenge You to Do This Ice Cream Road Trip in a Single Day

updated May 24, 2019
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(Image credit: Aura Lewis)

If you scream for ice cream (and don’t we all?), you can experience all the cold treats that the great state of New York has to offer in a single day. Start in Brooklyn, where everything is small-batch, including the ice cream. Cross over the Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan, where inventive, often wacky scoops rule the ice cream parlor stool, then meander through the quaint towns and farmlands upstate and get your fix of custard and soft serve. End your trip in the gorgeous Finger Lakes region, where you should have an ice cream sundae with a cherry on top, naturally.

Of course, you may prefer to stretch things out, interrupting your frozen sweets crusade with stops at farmers markets and orchards, bucolic inns and small-batch breweries. We’re just saying: It can be done in a day.

The Ultimate New York Ice Cream Road Trip

1. Start Here: Small-Batch Scoops in Brooklyn

If you believe everything you read, Brooklyn is full of bearded, skinny-jean-wearing hipsters who brew their own beer, make their own pickles, and only eat artisanal ice cream. We’re here to say that the rumors may be true, at least when it comes to frozen treats.

If you like your small-batch ice cream chock-full of mix-ins (think: Snap, Mallow, Pop, and Ooey Gooey Butter Cake), opt for Ample Hills Creamery; if you’re more of a purist, Van Leeuwen is the way to go. Their mint chocolate chip ice cream is so satisfyingly sophisticated we can even forgive it for not being green. (Oh, and they also have vegan flavors.)

The Best Ice Cream Shops in Brooklyn

2. Weird & Wacky in Manhattan

From fine dining to fast casual, New York City is like a factory of culinary trends, and the category of ice cream is no different. This is your prime opportunity to dive deep into the latest innovations and head-scratching flavors at places like OddFellows, helmed by a former WD-50 pastry chef, and Ice & Vice. In this Lower East Side mad-genius laboratory, you can get flavors like On the Rocks, made with Persian black lime cola and cherry Pop Rocks. Then again, you could go for the jet-black ice cream — made with activated charcoal — at Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream.

The Best Ice Cream Shops in Manhattan

3. Creative Custard in the Hudson River Valley

Now that you’ve gotten your nouveau fix, head north out of town to the Hudson River Valley, where you can explore quaint small towns like Tannersville, with antique stores, galleries, farm stands, and networks of hiking trails through the verdant northern Catskill mountains.

When you’re ready to fuel up, look for the giant ice cream cone atop Mama’s Boy Burgers, home to local grass-fed beef burgers, and 26 flavors of frozen custard, from amaretto to piña colada. If hard ice cream is your jam, however, Boice Bros Dairy in Kingston, New York is a worthy alternative.

The Best Ice Cream Shops in the Hudson River Valley

4. Soft Serve in Ithaca

Pivot west to Ithaca, an artsy college town filled with galleries, performing arts spaces, brewpubs, coffee shops, and eclectic restaurants, including the venerable, vegetarian Moosewood Café. A block away, Sweet Melissa’s serves up creative ice cream in flavors like Funfetti Rumcake, but it’s the high-quality soft serve and fro-yo-sherbet twists that keep people lining up.

The Best Ice Cream Shop in Ithaca

5. Classic Flavors & Ice Cream Sundaes in the Finger Lakes

Ithaca is the gateway to the Finger Lakes region, where rolling hills frame 11 glacial lakes, leafy hikes take you past rushing waterfalls, and country roads lead you through the fast-growing wine region. Whether you sip, hike, boat, or boutique your way through the area (or all of the above), a stop at Cayuga Lake Creamery in Interlaken is a must. Get a classic scoop like butter pecan or something more inventive like maple bacon, then head for the deck to enjoy it next to the waterfall and pond.

On nearby Keuka Lake is old-school Seneca Farms in Penn Yan. Here you can get your fried corn fritters alongside fried chicken or layered into a sundae with maple syrup and walnuts. In addition to the dozens of hard ice creams is a rotating lineup of frozen custards in flavors like peanut butter and lemon.

The Best Ice Cream Shops in the Finger Lakes

P.S.: Travelers have been soaking up the scenery here for generations, so there’s no shortage of historic hotels, cabins, and lodges to get you through the night. In fact, if you’ve ever wanted to stay in a castle, head for Seneca Lake. The Historic Belhurst Castle Chambers Hotel on the grounds of the acclaimed Belhurst Estate Winery even has a complimentary wine spigot, so you can fill your glass whenever you like.

Do you accept our ice cream challenge? Did you favor scoop shop make the cut?