Philadelphia was once known as the nation's ice cream capital, so it's no surprise the city is home to several must-try ice cream shops — not that anyone needs a reason for cold ice cream on a hot summer day. Here are 16 ice cream destinations worth checking out, whether the goal is rich gelato, a Thai-style treat, an over-the-top sundae, or a simple scoop of vanilla.Read More
Philly's Essential Ice Cream Shops
The best scoops, soft serve, and gelato in town
1. Zsa's Ice Cream
Philadelphia, PA 19119
Zsa’s on Germantown Avenue in Mt. Airy is always bustling with families and friends looking for a cold treat on a hot summer day. If the rich, delicious ice cream flavors weren’t enough — think lemon buttermilk and a rich chocolate sorbet that’s vegan — Zsa’s has branched into cake cones. No, not the kind you’re thinking of. These are classic wafer-thin cake cones, but with actual cake baked into the bottom, like an ice cream cake just for you. (Conveniently, Zsa’s also makes ice cream cakes.)
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2. Custard & Cakes Creamery
Roxborough natives know it well, but any fan of cones piled high with twirls of soft serve should pencil in a stop next time they make their way northwest. The family-owned stand has been around since the mid-1950s and makes everything in-house, going way beyond custard. The shop also serves hard ice cream, ice cream cakes, and more. And like any ice cream shop worth its salt, you can order a soft pretzel on the side, too.
3. Somerset Splits
Philadelphia, PA 19134
Head to Port Richmond’s Somerset Splits for extravagant, indulgent sundaes that will make any summer night feel special. Try the Nutter Butter, made with marshmallow Fluff, Nutter Butter cookies, and peanut butter swirl ice cream; or the Positive Vibration, with pineapple sauce, coconut, bananas, whipped cream, and a cherry. Ice cream is also sold by the scoop and in milkshakes, but what’s the fun in that?
4. 1-900-ICE-CREAM (multiple locations)
Philadelphia, PA 19122
With a dedicated scoop shop in Ardmore, and two “drop shops” in Rittenhouse and Fishtown, 1-900-ICE-CREAM is never far from reach. And isn’t that a relief: the menu of rotating flavors is colorful, creative, and jam-packed with exciting ingredients (say, Italian rainbow cookies or Strawberry Nesquik). You can preorder from all three locations — and don’t forget the ice cream cake. They’re made by Mallory Valvano of Party Girl Bake Club.
5. Float Dreamery
The vegan ice cream scene is bigger than ever — and as more people are turned onto plant-based diets, Float Dreamery is an excellent choice for dairy-free gelato. Only available on Saturdays between 12 and 3 p.m. at the Castellino’s window in Fishtown, it’s no wonder Float Dreamery has a devoted following. With rotating flavors like Spring Fling (made with pecan baklava and strawberry jam “swirlies”) and the Incredible Hunk (brownie chunks, mint gelato, and marshmallow), preordering for Saturday pickup is well worth it.
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6. Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams (multiple locations)
When the news broke that Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams — the beloved Ohio-based ice cream purveyor — was opening a scoop shop in Philly, Philadelphians couldn’t contain their excitement. There are now two Jeni’s shops in Philly (one in Fishtown and the other in Rittenhouse), where pints and cones of Jeni’s famous flavors are available daily.
7. Dre's Water Ice and Ice Cream (Mobile Truck)
Dre’s is known for its excellent sweet potato pie and banana pudding ice creams, but don’t forget to order Andre Andrew’s water ice, too. They come in all the classic flavors, and then some. Catch Dre’s truck at any number of festivals and events in the Philadelphia area (and beyond) — follow his social media to see where his carts pop up next.
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8. Bassetts Ice Cream
With a history dating back to 1861, Bassetts is billed as the country's oldest ice cream company. Its prime Reading Terminal Market location makes it a tourist destination Philly can really get behind. Step up to the marble bar to revel in simple vanilla scoops, nostalgic staples like butter pecan or rum raisin, more experimental rotating flavors, or soda shop classics like root beer floats and banana splits.
9. Weckerly's Ice Cream (multiple locations)
Weckerly’s specializes in French-style ice cream made with local, seasonal ingredients, and it’s superb either by the cup or in one of the ice cream sandwiches. The company built a fanbase around town before opening its shop in Fishtown, though you can still find the ice cream at other stores.
10. Gran Caffe L'Aquila
This multi-faceted Italian coffee shop, wine bar, gelateria, and restaurant immediately made a name for itself through its exemplary gelato. Courtesy of co-owner and award-winning gelatiere Stefano Biasini, Gran Caffe L'Aquila turns out sweet, savory, and alcohol-spiked flavors that many have deemed the best in town. Try the gelato flight with several bite-size spoonfuls served in a row.
11. Franklin Fountain
Ice cream is a part of Philadelphia history and few spots do justice to nostalgic soda shop vibes like Franklin Fountain, an ice cream destination in Old City from brothers Ryan and Eric Berley. The shop only dates back to 2004, but sits in a lovingly renovated and restored turn-of-the-century building. Go for one of the decadent sundaes, like the Stock Market Crunch with rocky road ice cream (invented in 1929), peanut butter sauce, salted pretzels, and whipped cream. During the summer, Franklin Fountain also sets up shop in Spruce Street Harbor Park on the Delaware River waterfront.
12. Sweet Charlie's
As soon as Philly’s first Thai-style hand-rolled ice cream shop opened, lines formed daily down Walnut Street. How it works: An ice cream base (including a non-dairy option) and mix-ins are poured onto a freezing surface that’s under 20 degrees, then scraped and smoothed into a rolled form. It looks pretty and tastes good.
13. Fiore Fine Foods
The gelato pints at Fiore Fine Foods in Queen village — in fun flavor combos like lemon blueberry shortbread — are signed and dated by the pastry chef who created the blend. Follow along on Instagram to see which flavors are up for grabs each day. You can also order for pickup in advance.
14. The Chilly Banana
Philadelphia, PA 19147
Ice cream purists would say that ice cream must be made with milk, even if that milk is of the plant-based variety. But purists be damned. Chilly Banana’s vegan whipped banana ice cream has no dairy and no added sugar and is delicious at that. There is a storefront on E. Passyunk but the banana ice cream truck bops around to different events in town. Check social media to see where they end up next.
15. La Guerrerense
A staple of the Italian Market, La Guerrerense draws crowds for its more than 60 flavors of ice cream made with a recipe from Guerrero, Mexico. Many of the flavors in this brightly colored shop are unusual for Philly, like eggnog, cheese, and “Angel’s Kiss,” a combo of cherry ice cream with marshmallows, dried fruit, and granola pieces.
16. Arctic Scoop
Philadelphia, PA 19148
East Passyunk’s Arctic Scoop takes its cues from Asian street snacks to create some of the most photogenic desserts in town. Choose a warm Hong Kong-style egg waffle or a Thai-inspired coconut bowl, an ice cream flavor like pandan, and colorful toppings including fresh fruit, Fruity Pebbles, and strawberry drizzle.