During the hottest days of summer, nothing beats cold ice cream, and your next soft-serve swirl with sprinkles, peanut butter sundae, or cocoa ancho in a fresh waffle cone is being churned right now. Celebrate National Ice Cream Month in the Shenandoah Valley, where the parlours range from retro charm to sophisticated coolness, but the ice creams are all made with the freshest ingredients. Whether you have a go-to flavor or you like to try something new, here’s the scoop on where to enjoy summer’s best comfort food.
Who doesn’t love big swirls of ice cream and frozen custard? A summer staple since the 1940s, soft serve is relatively simple in its flavor choices but is the perfect vehicle for holding lots of toppings.
The Dairy Corner – Winchester
Formerly known as Pack’s Dairy Corner, Winchester’s The Dairy Corner has been serving frozen custard since 1957. Though under new ownership, the shop kept the same great, “legend-dairy” recipes that people dream about all winter and line up for during spring reopening. The Dairy Corner offers vanilla, chocolate, raspberry, and banana as well as twists and weekly special flavors like pumpkin butter pecan, dreamsicle, cotton candy, and black raspberry cheesecake. Enjoy your cones, sundaes, or shakes at one of the shaded picnic tables or in your car – this walk-up shop doesn’t have indoor seating.
Willy’s Ice Cream – Waynesboro
Willy’s Ice Cream in Waynesboro has been dishing up delicious soft-serve ice cream every summer since 1995. This award-winning, family-owned business’s ice cream comes in vanilla, chocolate, twists, and a special flavor of the week. Willy’s also offers a fruit-flavored, dairy-free option each week. Enjoy your ice cream in a cone or cup, or as part of a sundae, shake, float, specialty dessert or “wizard.” Kids can indulge their taste fantasies with “dirt desserts,” “cookie monster,” or “Willy’s surprise,” which includes a toy from the treasure chest.
Willy’s Ice Cream – Berryville
Willy’s Ice Cream in Berryville (not affiliated with the Waynesboro Willy’s) has a little bit of everything. Love homemade ice cream, floats, and sundaes? Watermelon-flavored soft serve? Italian gelato? Sno cones and ice cream sandwiches? Caramel milkshakes or peach malts? Willy’s has you covered. Best of all, Willy’s sometimes enhances its sweet treats with a side of fun and humor, such as awarding free ice cream to the first person to show up wearing a hockey mask on Friday the 13th. This locally owned and operated shop has been making people happy for more than five years.
Those aching for a taste of nostalgia with their ice cream should cruise the drive-in at Wright’s Dairy-Rite, where under the glow of the retro neon sign, waitstaff will deliver your food to your car. Wright’s been delivering great tastes to Staunton for 68 years, and customers using the drive-in or eating in a red, vinyl booth in the dining room place their orders on vintage “Serv-Us Phones.” The menu offers flurries, splits, milkshakes, malts, and drink freezes, and something called a Wright’s Wheelie, which loads a warm donut with ice cream, whipped cream, and toppings.
Kline’s Dairy Bar – Harrisonburg
It’s always sundae funday at Kline’s Dairy Bar, which has been making fresh and delicious custard-style ice cream every morning since its original Harrisonburg location opened in 1943. Kline’s now has four additional locations, including a second in Harrisonburg, as well as shops in Waynesboro, Staunton, and McGaheysville. Kline’s uses a time-consuming production method called “continuous freeze,” which is worth the extra effort because it reduces the air incorporated into the ice cream and results in a denser, creamier product. Each location serves chocolate and vanilla as well as a weekly special flavor (or two). Grab a flavor card for the schedule of can’t-miss options like chocolate peanut butter, cake batter, raspberry, and lemon gingersnap in cones, cups, shakes, flurries, and sundaes.
Some early “ice creams” were simply ice or snow sweetened with honey and other ingredients. A far cry from that, today’s hand-dipped ice creams are full of fresh cream and milk, and their rich textures can support complex flavors and all kinds of add-ins.
Sweet Things Ice Cream Shoppe – Lexington
Looking for some of the creamiest homemade ice cream around? Try Sweet Things Ice Cream Shoppe after a day of sightseeing in Lexington. For over 30 years, Sweet Things has been scooping from its menu of 24 gourmet flavors of ice cream and fruit sherbet, including favorites such as oreo cookie, coffee toffee crunch, black raspberry, and lemon sorbet. Weekly specials might include Chunky Irish Girlscout (Thin Mint cookies + Baileys Irish Cream), Guinness, and dark ale for those who like to eat their beer, chocolate amaretto, and pumpkin pie. Enjoy your ice cream on a freshly baked, hand-rolled waffle cone, or try a sundae, split, milkshake, or freeze. You won’t be able to resist taking home a pint or quart for later!
Sweet Scoops Ice Cream Parlor – Stuart’s Draft
Inspired by childhood memories of their uncle churning homemade ice cream on the porch, Livonia and West Fint are “living the cream” running their recently opened Sweet Scoops Ice Cream Parlor in Stuarts Draft. They make premium, local, dip-style ice cream daily in 10 classic flavors. They also offer dairy-free sorbet, plus weekly special flavors like coconut and cookie monster. Ice cream can be enjoyed in cones, floats, splits, sundaes, shakes, coffee stirs, and even butterbeer stirs, which are butterscotch-based ice cream sodas.
Sugar Creek Snowy & Sweet Co. – Strasburg
After selling concessions at fairs and festivals since 2012, Melissa Hooser opened Sugar Creek Snowy & Sweet Co’s Strasburg storefront in 2018 to serve delicious Pennsylvania Mennonite Creamery Ice Cream. The creamery dishes up more than 30 intriguing hand-dipped flavors like maple walnut, pistachio, orange creamsicle, box of chocolates, and key lime cheese tart. You can also enjoy milkshakes, malts, sundaes, banana splits, and even sno cones. Best of all, this creamery has a history of supporting local causes.
Smiley’s Ice Cream – Mt. Crawford
Smiley’s Ice Cream was originally known for delivering sweet treats to events and farmers’ markets, but since 2017, you can buy ice cream from its shop beside the Mt. Crawford Creamery. The creamery produces the milk and cream Smiley’s uses, so you know it’s fresh. Smiley’s slow-churns its “porch ice cream.” This process reduces much of the air that can be found in commercial ice cream brands. The shop offers a lineup of standards like chocolate, vanilla, and salted caramel chocolate chunk. There’s also a weekly menu of specials like dirty brownie, cherry bomb, and coconut pie. Order at the window or online.
Red Fox Creamery – Winchester
Located since 2010 on Winchester’s Old Town pedestrian mall, Red Fox Creamery makes its ice cream from scratch, using local ingredients, including the 18% butterfat cream that makes its ice cream taste out of this world. Sixteen flavors are available each day, out of a rotating lineup of more than 40, and the creamery will make them all into cones, sundaes, milkshakes, or special-order ice cream pies and cakes. Better yet, the creamery will actually create custom flavors for organizations or businesses.The creamery also offers a light lunch menu and baked goods like their crowd-pleasing chocolate chip cookies.
Wondering how gelato’s different from ice cream? Dating back to the 1660s gelato goes heavy on the milk and light on the cream, making the treat lower in fat, but since it’s dense, it contains less air and can carry intense flavors.
Bella Gelato & Pastries – Harrisonburg
Harrisonburg’s Bella Gelato & Pastries hand makes its gelato on-site with local milk from Mount Crawford Creamery. The gelato is exquisite and pairs best with a house-made waffle cone. Gelato flavors include the classics, as well as seasonally-inspired flavors such as brown butter cookie dough, candied lemon cardamom, and spiced cider sorbetto. Warm-up after your cool treat at the espresso and coffee bar, and take home some fresh bread and croissants for when you get hungry again!
The Split Banana – Staunton
If you’ve been window shopping in downtown Staunton, you can’t miss The Split Banana, an adorable gelato and sorbet shop decorated with a traditional ice cream counter, and retro black, white and green tile. The Split Banana offers 18 delectable and fresh-made flavors each day from a rotating lineup of more than 50. Enjoy traditional flavors or more innovative and adventurous options like banana stracciatella, sticky rice, and peanut butter and jelly. The Split Banana earned a spot on Trip Advisor’s 2011 U.S-wide top ten ice cream/gelato list. It is also a Virginia Living Magazine’s 2012 Best of Virginia pick.