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. 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. This is a seasonal operation, so go before the end of October.
2. Little Baby's Ice Cream (multiple locations)
Known for its off-the-wall flavors like Everything Bagel and Pizza (and a terrifying viral hit of an ad), the backbone of Little Baby's is really good ice cream. The owners frequently collaborate with other local businesses and are committed to running a responsible, sustainable business. Bonus: Little Baby's also makes vegan ice cream.
3. Somerset Splits
Philadelphia, PA 19134
Looking for Bassetts Ice Cream without the Reading Terminal Market lines? Head to Port Richmond’s new Somerset Splits, an ice cream shop that sells the Philly-favorite ice cream in banana splits, colorful sundaes, milkshakes, and floats.
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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
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7. 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.
8. Franklin Ice Cream Bar
On the same block as the Berley brothers’ more famous Franklin Fountain, their newer Franklin Ice Cream Bar serves — you’ll never guess — ice cream bars. The keystone-shaped treats are hand-dipped in chocolate and made to order with a variety of rotating toppings like freeze-dried berries and potato chips. Ice cream and frozen custard are also sold here and the line is almost always shorter than at Franklin Fountain.
9. Scoop DeVille Midtown (multiple locations)
Now with two locations (Center City and the Bourse food hall in Old City), Scoop DeVille still draws long lines for its custom ice cream blends. Start with one of a dozen ice cream and fat-free frozen yogurt bases, then select mix-ins from nearly 100 candy, fruit, syrup, cookie (also: cookie dough), and nut options, and finally, pick a topping or two. Add in sea salt to perk up the sweet-on-sweet flavors.
10. Alice Pizza
Thanks to the restaurant’s relationship with Gran Caffe L'Aquila, the gelato at the Philly outpost of Rome’s Alice Pizza is made by award-winning gelatiere Stefano Biasini. Try a classic Italian flavor, like amarena cherries or hazelnut.
11. 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. Sweet Charlie's in Rittenhouse mixes alcohol into the ice cream on request.
12. Big Gay Ice Cream
Philadelphians are not known for uncritically embracing all things New York, but when Big Gay Ice Cream opened its very first shop outside of NYC here, soft-serve fans quickly lined up for dipped cones and sundaes. Specialties include the cult-status Salty Pimp, a combo of vanilla soft serve, sea salt, and dulce de leche with a chocolate dip.
13. Zsa's Ice Cream (rotating locations)
Philadelphia, PA 19147
Zsa's vends its ice cream out of a truck, so it takes a bit of hunting to find these excellent frozen treats. Local ingredients are spun into seasonal flavors and ice cream sandwiches at the Rittenhouse Farmers' Market (Saturdays from May to November) and the Headhouse Farmers' Market (Sundays from May to November), as well as other other markets and events. Zsa's wares are also stocked by Whole Foods, Green Aisle Grocery, and a number of co-ops, including Weavers Way.
14. Fiore Fine Foods
Queen Village’s new all-day Italian cafe and restaurant recently started selling its gelato to go. The pints — in fun flavor combos like mascarpone with rainbow sprinkles and toffee — are signed and dated by the pastry chef who created the blend. Both pints and scoops are available for takeout from the restaurant’s bar. Follow along on Instagram to see which flavors are up for grabs each day.
15. La Guerrerense
A relative newcomer to 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. Bonus: The staff here is bilingual (English and Spanish).
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 unusual ice cream flavor like lychee lavender, and colorful toppings including fresh fruit, Fruity Pebbles, and strawberry drizzle.