During the hot, sweltering summer Iowa days, ice cream always provides relief.
Fortunately, in Iowa, there is no shortage of the frozen treat. Iowans know how to make the best ice cream. Like snowbirds, some of these ice cream places come and go with the warm weather. Be sure to check their websites to make sure these shops are open when you want to visit.
Here are a few of the best locally-owned ice cream shops:
Do not let the appearance of the building throw you off, Classic Frozen Custard in Des Moines is the perfect place for old-school custard. Iowans love Culver’s, but this family-owned business blows them out of the water with its custard and value. For first-timers, try the cookies and cream and caramel cashew flavors with a plethora of toppings. It also makes the best strawberry shakes made with a good helping of fresh strawberries. In addition to the standard flavors, it rotates in and out flavors such as cherry nut, cappuccino, pralines and cream, maple walnut, and many more.
Sean’s Pick: A junior caramel cashew with caramel.
If you like caramel, I recommend this ice cream. Caramel oozes over all the caramel cashew custard. The softness of the custard is accompanied by the crunch of the cashew providing a delightful dessert. The caramel spread on top is the perfect amount of thick and sticky. Block off time because the thickness of the custard makes the eating process longer.
Address: 4000 S.E. 14th St., Des Moines
This enjoyable, summer ice cream shop is Iowa’s best-kept secret. Open during the summer months in beautiful Ventura, about five miles southwest of Clear Lake. After spending a day on the lake—and before you head to a movie in Garner—stop by for a quick bite of ice cream. Be prepared as its small size would be considered a large serving at other ice cream places. The Viking’s Tornados with candy are customer favorites. Its most popular flavor is black raspberry frozen yogurt. In case you wanted to be more impressed, try The Viking’s delicious food, which is its best-kept secret.
Sean’s Pick: Small chocolate Tornado with M&M’s and cookie dough
While small, it is almost too high of an ice cream mountain to climb, but I conquered it. Eating it fast is key before the ice cream melts on a warm, summer day. The crunch of the M&M’s and softness of the cookie dough combine for a tough and soft sugary pleasure.
Address: 3 S. Main St., Ventura
Since the early 1980s, this eastern Iowa staple has been producing great soft serve ice cream. After originating in downtown Waterloo, 4 Queens Dairy Cream has grown to four locations, providing many ice cream treats such as soft serve, flavor burst, slushies, smoothies, floats, frozen coffee crunches, cones, and specialty sundaes. For new customers, try the Scotcharoo Storm as you will more than likely not find it elsewhere. If this does not tickle your fancy, try the black raspberry cone or an orange twist cone, which tastes like a Dreamsicle.
Sean’s Pick: Chocolate Snowstorm with cookie dough
This ice cream pick is perfect. Any time I am in Cedar Falls, I never leave unsatisfied after getting this ice cream. It may be simple, but 4 Queens Dairy Cream does it right.
Address: 1310 W. First St., Cedar Falls
207 E. Tower Park Dr., Waterloo
3640 Lafayette Road, Evansdale
After starting six years ago, Here’s The Scoop has locations in the Village of East Davenport and LeClaire and an ice cream truck. This homemade ice cream is made onsite in small batches at the Village of East store.
The baking is all done in-house while nothing is outsourced. Customers can get popular items such as rhubarb crisp with a scoop of rhubarb ice cream or an ooeey gooey bar with lavender honeycomb. You can get these popular flavors in a homemade waffle cone or bowl.
Other popular flavors are lemon basil with fresh-squeezed lemons and fresh basil or goat cheese with roasted cherries or blueberries. Celebrate Iowa in July with sweet corn ice cream made from locally grown peaches and cream corn. There are also dairy-free and vegan options such as avocado key lime and cherry, both with a coconut base. A popular customer choice is also the ice cream cookie sandwich.
If you still crave more after all these flavors, do not worry, Here’s the Scoop is always working on something new for customers to enjoy.
Address: 1104 Mound St., Davenport
204 Jones St., Le Claire
Enjoy ice cream in Le Mars, the Ice Cream Capital of the World. The Wells Visitor Center & Ice Cream Parlor has all the best flavors to try. You can get the standard Blue Bunny flavors in addition to flavors not available in retail stores such as huckleberry, birthday cake, chocolate brownie extreme, cotton candy, and Scooper Hero. A fan-favorite for kids, Scooper Hero consists of classic vanilla-colored red, yellow, and blue.
Experience the town where more ice cream is produced annually than anywhere else in the world. On the second floor, there is an immersive experience with a movie theater and interactive displays that detail how ice cream is made. During the summer months, enjoy your ice cream on the rooftop patio overlooking Main Street.
Address: 115 Central Ave. N.W., Le Mars
Current owner Brad Magg purchased Goldie’s in 2007. He used his creativity, passion for food, culinary degree, and entrepreneurship to add a Big City experience all while keeping Goldie’s small-town charm alive. Magg continues the Goldie’s legacy that began in 1995.
Its menu has a variety of options ranging from sundaes like apple pie, butterslinger, and mudd, which is twist ice cream toppers with chocolate syrup, Oreos, a gummy worm, and whipped cream. There is also a non-dairy, vegan soft serve option. Goldie’s also has overload Twisters such as chocolate craze, monster cookie, and pineapple upside-down cake, which is vanilla ice cream, pineapple, caramel, and cake batter. Goldie’s also boasts a larger than normal topping/candy selection to allow customers to truly customize their flavors.
From March through December, Goldie’s has a flavor of the week soft serve ranging from Dole Whip to banana crème. The flavor of the week can be served in a cone or dish or to create a unique twister, shake/malt, or sundae. Some flavors run once a year so purchase quarts of your favorites.
If you want more than dessert, try Iowa’s Best Breaded Pork Tenderloin in 2009. I got it, and it still holds up after all these years.
Sean’s Pick: Chocolate craze
For the chocolate lovers, this is the perfect ice cream. With chocolate ice cream, brownie, chocolate syrup, and hot fudge, this treat will satisfy your chocolate sweet tooth. When hot fudge complements the ice cream’s coldness, it enriches the experience. Add in the delicious brownie, and I am ready to go to St. Peter’s Gate.
Address: 304 W. Second St #8578, Prairie City
by Sean Dengler
Iowa Starting Line is part of an independent news network and focuses on how state and national decisions impact Iowans’ daily lives. We rely on your financial support to keep our stories free for all to read. You can contribute to us here. Follow us on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
The Dec. 5 run-off election in Waterloo will be a match-up between a progressive voice on the city council who fights for LGBTQ protections and one...
More states are enshrining access to abortion care in their state constitutions, and some Iowans are wondering if the same can be done here? The...
Classic, vintage, iconic, and just plain cool, we found some old movie theaters sprinkled across the state—many of them long-time staples on the...
For 34 years straight, Johnny and Barbara Long never missed a West Des Moines City Council meeting. “They attended more meetings [in other years] as...