As a kid, my grandparents who lived down the street would take me, my mom and sister out for ice cream every Monday night.
Each town has its favorite hometown ice cream parlor, and growing up in suburban Detroit, for us it was Stroh’s Ice Cream. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because Stroh’s was the most identifiable Detroit beer brand for years. But it served up some delicious ice cream too, more memorable for me than the beer that I tried when I was older.
Many Florida cities are no exception, with an ice cream spot that everyone craves on a steamy summer night, after a trip to the beach or during a Sunday afternoon drive.
We asked our fellow Sunshine State journalists to provide a favorite in their towns. So here’s, pardon my pun, the scoop: They’re all pretty fantastic. – Dave Osborn, Naples Daily News
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Love Boat Ice Cream
16475 San Carlos Blvd., south Fort Myers; 7977 Dani Drive No. 130, Fort Myers; 1700 Periwinkle Way, No. 9, Sanibel: 239-466-7707; loveboaticecream.com
The iconic south Fort Myers ice cream shop opened in a small shack of a building on San Carlos Boulevard in 1967. The family business has served generations of locals and is a nostalgic stop for out-of-towners who visit the area each year. With three ice cream shops in Southwest Florida, Love Boat Ice Cream in recent years expanded the original in a new, nearby space but kept the same epoxy floor, bright color scheme and signature green pole.
The awkwardly placed pole is a carryover from the original Love Boat, where it was part of the support structure. Fans love the variety of hand-dipped flavors. “We make it all by hand. We bake the cakes, toast the coconut and use quality ingredients,” owner Brian Borst told The News-Press in Fort Myers in 2020, adding: “It’s made with love.” – Gina Birch, Special to the News-Press
3646 Post St., Jacksonville; 904-388-2558; facebook.com/Dreamette
Just about any day when temperature is getting all Florida-y, you can find a line of people under the blue-and-white striped awning at the Dreamette walk-up window in Jacksonville’s Murray Hill neighborhood. Most are there for the towering soft-serve cones (vanilla, chocolate, strawberry or swirl) or banana splits, but a few adventurous types experiment with the shakes menu, which has the standard chocolate, peach and strawberry but also delves into flavors you don’t typically see in a milkshake (watermelon, grape, cinnamon toast crunch).
Dreamette, which has been around since 1948, is strictly walk-up, with no inside seating and only a few benches for outside seating. It’s also a no-nonsense kind of place – they don’t take credit or debit cards, and a sign near the window reads “Notice: Pull Up Your Pants. Strictly Enforced.” Several new Dreamette locations have opened in the last few years around the Jacksonville area. – Thomas Szaroleta, The Florida Times-Union
Rise & Nye’s
1534 State St., Sarasota; 941-217-6449, riseandnyes.com
Located in bustling downtown Sarasota, Rise & Nye’s is where you’ll want to satisfy your sweet tooth with irresistible ice cream sandwiches made fresh on site along with other assorted treats that can be paired with locally roasted organic coffees. Applauded throughout the community for employing individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Rise & Nye’s ice cream can be enjoyed by the scoop, sundae, shake or float – but, really, you’ll want to try one of their homemade ice cream sandwiches. You can’t go wrong with the traditional chocolate chip cookie and vanilla ice cream coupling but my personal favorite pairs chocolate cookies teeming with chocolate chips with a serving of Nye’s ridiculously good peanut butter fluff ice cream. Visiting downtown Sarasota? Also consider nearby Main Street Creamery, owned by the same fellow behind Yoder’s Southern Creamery, which provides ice cream for the Main Street parlor and various other shops in Sarasota and neighboring Manatee County. Rise & Nye’s and Main Street Creamery were each featured on Yelp’s list of the top 25 ice cream spots in Florida for 2022. – Wade Tatangelo, Sarasota Herald-Tribune
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Cherry Hill Ice Cream Cafe
138 Beachcomber St., Daytona Beach Shores, 386-383-6553, icecreamcherryhill.com
Cherry Hill Ice Cream Cafe in Daytona Beach Shores may be relatively new, opening in 2021, but it has already become a local favorite. The retro American pop culture-styled cafe features homemade ice cream with rotating flavors such as coffee crunch, butter pecan, velvet chocolate, Lucy lavender and more. Cherry Hill also offers adult options for those of age with alcohol-infused flavors such as banana foster, “Mudd Slide,” Baileys and cherry amaretto. Along with Cherry Hill’s classic scoops, other treats include shakes, floats and sundaes as well as coffee, which can all be enjoyed throughout the week including on the popular trivia Thursday or karaoke Wednesday.
For those wanting a cold treat after a day of sun and sand, during a family-friendly game night or just something to cure your sweet tooth, Cherry Hill Ice Cream Cafe has it all right by “The World’s Most Famous Beach.” – Caroline Hebert, The Daytona Beach News-Journal
Sweet Annie’s Ice Cream
692 Bald Eagle Drive, Marco Island; 239-642-7180; visit Sweet Annie’s on Facebook
If you’ve never licked a cone from Sweet Annie’s Ice Cream Parlour on Marco Island, you’ve missed a convenient stop since 1986 en route to the island’s two public beaches. A color-coded chalkboard menu highlights options for dietary restrictions from sugar- and gluten-free to nut allergies. From there, it’s up to you. Lemon ice is sublime and dairy-free. You don’t have to hail from Michigan to indulge in Mackinac Turtle Fudge, a chocolatey treat that satisfies every sweet tooth. The delightfully old-school atmosphere is a trip down memory lane where vibrant walls of vintage candies, soda pops, games and puzzle collections are available for purchase. Kids of all ages will find something to love. – Diana Biederman, Naples Daily News
Sloan’s Ice Cream
Two shops in West Palm Beach, one in Delray Beach, two in Boca Raton, one in Doral and one in Lauderdale by the Sea. More at SloansIceCream.com/locations
The hot-pink empress of Palm Beach County ice cream parlors, Sloan’s Ice Cream has been a local institution and customer favorite since 1999, when it opened its first shop in downtown West Palm Beach. The over-the-top brand now has nine frilly locations in the United States (five of them in Palm Beach County) and six others – also frilly – in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
Whichever Sloan’s location you may visit, you can expect to find whimsical interiors to match the creative ice cream. (Think unicorns and rainbow chandeliers in Candy Land).
If you’re not near a Sloan’s shop and crave a taste of the shop’s confections, you can order it on Goldbelly.com. The ice cream is sold in three to five-pint amounts, serving five to eight ice cream fans.
Flavor notes: Menu includes concoctions like peach cobbler (filled with cobbler pieces), Tracy’s Scrumptious Pretzel (caramel ice cream studded with chocolate-covered pretzels and swirled with peanut butter) and other far-out combos. Vegan ice cream is offered as well. – Liz Balmaseda, The Palm Beach Post
Bubba’s Sweet Spot
405 S Palafox St., Pensacola; 850-332-6696; bubbasweetspot.com
Bubba’s Sweet Spot is a small gem tucked away in the heart of downtown Pensacola.
The candy and ice cream shop was established in 2016 by co-owners Quint and Rishy Studer and golfing great Bubba Watson, and was a welcome addition to the area.
Walking into the ice cream and candy shop is a bit like walking into Cheers – they may not know your name yet, but they’ll treat you like you’ve been lifelong friends.
Candy lines the walls and shelves, and you can find everything from salt water taffy to homemade chocolates and fudge.
Ice cream offerings range from basic scoops to decadent cones lined with fudge and sprinkles, holding your favorite flavors and topped with whipped cream. – C. Brandon Girod, Pensacola News Journal
Azucar Ice Cream Company
Flagship location is 1503 SW Eighth St., Miami, 305-381-0369, AzucarIceCream.com
Miami’s ice cream queen tells stories of her Cuban-American roots at her Azucar Ice Cream shop on Little Havana’s Southwest Eighth Street (aka Calle Ocho). She tells these stories not with a keyboard or guitar but with cream and heaps of sugar.
The shop’s name, after all, is the Spanish word for sugar. It’s also the call-out phrase made famous by the late Cuban rumba legend Celia Cruz, who punctuated her most rhythmic songs with soulful “Ahhhh-zuuu-cah!” exclamations. You’ll find a huge painting of an exuberant Celia at the shop, and in it she appears to be screaming for ice cream.
Flavor notes: Lots to scream about at Azucar, where signature flavors include caramel flan, café con leche, Abuela Maria (made with cream cheese, guava and crushed Maria cookies), plátano maduro (sweet plantain) and mantecado (buttery Cuban vanilla).
Open since 2011 in Little Havana, Azucar now has locations in Miami’s Downtown Dadeland, at Miami Beach’s TimeOut Market and in Dallas. Find the original location behind a facade that bears a gigantic ice cream cone with five colorful scoops teetering upon it against a bright blue sky. – Liz Balmaseda, The Palm Beach Post
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402 N. Harbor City Blvd., Melbourne; 321-254-8381; on Facebook
There’s nothing fancy or trendy about Del’s Freez, which has been dishing up soft-serve ice cream beside U.S. 1 in Melbourne since 1956. But there’s plenty of character, plus enough ice cream and nostalgia to keep a line snaking in front of the building pretty much any time the place is open.
Del’s got its start as a Tastee Freez franchise. Delbert Schmadel purchased the shop in 1968 and changed its name to Del’s Freez in 1987. Current owner Lisa Pope began working at Del’s four decades ago when she was a 16-year-old Eau Gallie High School student. She purchased the business after Schmadel’s death in 2009.
Not much has changed at Del’s during the past 60 years. A family of five can get generous cones for less than $20. The menu includes a few hot dogs and Polish sausage. Mostly, though, this is an ice cream place with sundaes, shakes, dip cones and twists made from vanilla, chocolate, strawberry or peanut butter soft serve.
Don’t be deterred if there’s a line – because chances are, there will be. Just take your place in it and make new friends. You might meet a couple on their first date, or a couple who visited Del’s on their first date 50 years ago and are now treating their grandkids to dip cones and plenty of napkins. – Suzy Fleming Leonard, Florida Day
2467 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel Island; 239-472-7222; facebook.com/joeyscustard
A sweet spot along the main drag of Sanibel Island is Joey’s Custard.
The family-owned, award-winning ice cream shop serves up premium custards, ice cream, frozen yogurts, sorbets and Italian ice.
Joey Almeida opened the place with his mom, Debbie Almeida, in 2016. He grew up on the island, attending school there from kindergarten through eighth grade before eventually serving in the U.S. Army until 2015.
The colorful decor makes it a perfect fit for the island vibe, but don’t forget the cool stuff. The menu boasts a variety of offerings, including gluten-free custards, custard blends, frozen yogurts, cookie doughs and ice creams with flavors like Blue Moon, Cookie Monster, Fat Elvis and Mackinac Island Fudge.
And Joey’s Custard is a favorite among thousands of its customers. Earlier this summer, Joey’s was rated No. 3 in Florida when Yelp released its roundup of the Top 25 Ice Cream Spots in Florida for 2022. – Dave Osborn, Naples Daily News
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Joy’s Ice Cream Plus
4959 S. U.S. 1 in Fort Pierce, 772-461-5544; 3433 S.W. Darwin Blvd. in Port St. Lucie, 772-204-2747; facebook.com/joysicecreamplus
Joy and Joe Villareale opened Joy’s Ice Cream Plus in 1998, moved it to the Winn-Dixie plaza in 2001, opened a second shop in Portofino Plaza, then retired and sold the business to Janene Platov in 2015. “They formulated the mix … with three ingredients in it,” Platov said of the secret recipe. “That’s why this ice cream stands out. … It’s so creamy and rich.” All are homemade, except for the popular dulce de leche, which is authentically made in Miami and often runs out before it’s restocked weekly. – Laurie K. Blandford, TCPalm/Treasure Coast
938 Santa Maria Blvd. in the Shores Plaza, St. Augustine; 904-797-0626; More on Facebook
About six miles south of downtown St. Augustine, the Cold Cow ice cream parlor offers unexpected varieties of the frozen dessert.
The shop carries over 100 ice cream flavors, including Graham Central Station (graham-cracker-flavored ice cream with a “graham cracker swirl and chocolate covered honeycomb candies”), Garbage Can (candy bar chunks, granulated peanuts and vanilla ice cream) and Elephant Ears (vanilla ice cream with peanut butter and chocolate chips).
The shop offers fruity flavors, no-sugar added ice cream and other treats, too. And people can expect to see a cow or two, or more, in the decor.
The business is a little over 10 years old and has received awards for best ice cream place in the area by Folio Weekly and The St. Augustine Record’s Best of St. Augustine contests. – Sheldon Gardner, The St. Augustine Record
3149 Ocean Drive, Vero Beach; 772-231-0208; facebook.com/verocravings
Mary Sue Walker established Cravings in 1983 in her native Michigan, opening the Florida location, a beachside icon, just a year later. The ice cream cafe has a gourmet bakery, cappuccinos and sandwiches. It serves 24 flavors of homemade ice cream in waffle cones. The idea for Cravings began when Walker was a 21-year-old college student. She was an intern at Symon’s General Store, a landmark cafe and gourmet grocer in the northern Michigan resort town of Petoskey, and loved it. She eventually started her own business, and ultimately made Florida her home. – Laurie K. Blandford, TCPalm/Treasure Coast
This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: What’s the best ice cream parlor in Florida: Visit these iconic ones