If you thought the next big holiday after the Fourth of July was Labor Day, you thought wrong.
That's because July 21 is National Ice Cream Day. July has actually been National Ice Cream Month since 1984 when then President Ronald Reagan issued one of the most important presidential proclamations in history.
Of course, it's no secret that Americans love ice cream. According to the International Dairy Foods Association, people in the U.S. consume an average of 23 pounds of ice cream a year. That's more than chocolate and other candy combined!
While amazing ic creams are available at grocery stores nationwide, sometimes a pint from the freezer aisle just won't cut it. For that reason, TODAY Food spent hours looking at hundreds of ice cream establishments across the country. The following are some of the best shops and places to risk getting a serious case of brain freeze.
Churn — Phoenix, Arizona
Not only has Churn been recognized by Food & Wine Magazine for having the 14th best ice cream in the country, it's also where Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (and former Coldstone Creamery co-owner) recently signed a new bill making it easier for small businesses to sell ice cream and frozen treats. In terms of flavors, Churn's extensive selection rotates daily, but visitors will definitely count on the cone menu being consistent. Don't miss Churn's crazy popular pretzel cone or the Kitchen Sink Sundae.
The STIL — Boise, Idaho
The City of Trees has one of the country's most underrated culinary scenes (its Inn at 500 Capitol even has a fine dining menu, for dogs). One of its biggest assets is The STIL, an American "gelato bistro" named for the sweetest things in life. Since opening in 2017, it's gained a cult-like following among customers who appreciate the contemporary menu. The STIL goes beyond just offering non-dairy treats. It also does flight trays where you can pair four wines (or beers) with four scoops of ice cream. The ice cream is made in house every day, too.
Dreyer's — Oakland, California
If you're a rocky road fan, you have this Oakland-based ice cream company to thank. Founded in 1928, Dreyer's also introduced us to another now-classic flavor: cookies 'n cream. And here's a fun fact: Dreyer's is sold under the name Edy's on the East Coast. Back in the day, the company thought the word Dreyer's looked too similar to another popular ice cream brand on the East Coast, Breyer's. Both names come from the last names of the company's founders, William Dreyer and Joseph Edy.
Crank & Boom Craft Ice Cream — Lexington, Kentucky
It's not surprising that Crank & Boom Craft Ice Cream has a near-perfect 4.9-star rating on Facebook and a 4.8-star rating on Google. The restaurant's owners, Mike and Tao Green, may have have started the company on a whim, but they run it like it's their life's work. In fact, the Greens' first location was so successful that they decided to open another brick-and-mortar "ice cream lounge." Popular flavors like bourbon and honey or blackberry and buttermilk are inspired by Kentucky's laid back country lifestyle. All flavors are served in adorable glass jars you'll want to take home. The Distillery District location even has ice cream cocktails featuring locally-distilled rum.
Richardson's Ice Cream — Middleton, Massachusetts
There's good ice cream, and then there's ice cream worth going way out of your way for. Richardson's Ice Cream, now with two locations, has been the cause of detours for several decades. The Richardsons have been in the dairy farming business since 1695, so they definitely know a thing or two about milk. While the milk used in the ice cream comes from the cows you can see on the farm, premium ingredients like the vanilla and cocoa are imported from Madagascar and Holland. Both locations are open every day of the year except Christmas and Thanksgiving.
Boardwalk Waffles & Ice Cream — Maplewood, Missouri
Eric Moore, the Jersey Shore native who founded Boardwalk Waffles & Ice Cream in a St. Louis suburb as "a goof" in 2017, is now busy opening more locations. Maybe that's because his labor of sweet love was featured on the cover of St. Louis Magazine. Or maybe it's because the shop has nailed the combination of ice cold ice cream paired with hot, made-to-order Belgian waffles. There are even gluten-free waffles now!
eCreamery — Omaha, Nebraska
You may recognize eCreamery from when it was featured on "Shark Tank." Or perhaps it looks familiar because you read about it on TODAY when a photo of eCreamery fans Paul McCartney and Warren Buffet went viral. What sets eCreamery apart from other ice cream companies is its customization. Customers can even create their own flavors (of ice cream, gelato or sorbet) and personalize their own pints. There's a brick-and-mortar location in Omaha — look for the long line out the door — but you can also indulge in eCreamery by ordering it online. They even sell mail-to-order ice cream sandwich kits.
Squigley's Ice Cream and Treats — Carolina Beach, North Carolina
For families vacationing at Carolina Beach (or even neighboring Kure Beach or Wrightsville Beach), the first stop is usually Squigley's. Located in a 1930s home that once housed WWII soldiers on leave, Squigley's is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Unlike most of the other ice cream shops on this list, Squigley's specializes in soft serve. But instead of being made with a powder base, it's made with real vanilla ice cream. Then it's up to you to decide what kind of "squigley" you want to create. Pick from a tempting selection of baked treats, candies and fruits to be mixed in using the store's patented machine. There are more than 4,000 combinations to try!
Velvet Ice Cream — Utica, Ohio
When Joseph Dager sold his first batch of hand-cranked ice cream in 1914, he probably didn't foresee starting an ice cream empire that would eventually be run by four generations of Dagers. Today, Velvet Ice Cream has 125 employees and thousands, if not millions of fans. You can find Velvet Ice Cream in stores like Walmart, Kroger or CVS. But for a more memorable experience, visit its Ye Old Mill location to take a factory tour and/or attend its annual ice cream festival.
Roxy's Ice Cream Social — Oklahoma City
Don't be fooled by the retro color scheme and bar seating with old school soda shop seats. Roxy's Ice Cream Social — deemed Oklahoma's best ice cream by both regional and national publications — has only been around since 2012. It actually started as a food truck. Seven years later, its founders Shane and Raena Mutz, have four wildly popular brick-and-mortar locations (although their to-go pint containers still pay homage to the original food truck). Come in for homemade ice cream served between two homemade cookies; stay for the classic sugar cane sodas. Another thing worth noting? Roxy's Ice Cream Social will be giving out free sprinkles on National Ice Cream Day.
Molly & Myles — Greenville, South Carolina
Molly & Myles is not your mom's ice cream parlor. Instead, this chef-driven establishment from Greenville's self-proclaimed "weirdest family" has been described as "if Willy Wonka was tossed in a tornado with the Avengers on a Star Wars movie set." Superheroes even visit the shop — which was designed for kids, by kids — every Tuesday. But superheroes aside, what distinguishes Molly & Myles from almost every other ice cream joint are its enormous cereal-inspired cones. If you've never eaten ice cream out of a Fruity Pebbles bowl are you really living?
Melt Ice Creams — Fort Worth, Texas
Melt Ice Creams may be housed in an unassuming brick building. But this family-owned joint has quickly become an ice cream institution in Fort Worth. Its small menu (which is a good thing since it means you don't have to spend an hour making a decision) changes seasonly. Count on these six "Always Flavors": Beans, Chocolate Chocolate, Cookie Crack, Salt Lick, Cup of Texas and Velvet Vegan. This summer's "Sometimes Flavors" include Peachy Keen, Rainbow Cereal and a dairy-free, gluten-free Cashew Chip. Yes, Melt Ice Creams goes out of its way to cater to those with dietary needs. It also hosts Taco Tuesday every week. Come in for a waffle taco filled with two scoops of homemade ice cream drizzled with chocolate sauce and topped with whipped cream.
Higgles ice cream — Breckenridge, Colorado
When Anna Higgins started Higgles ice cream in 2011, it was a mobile, seasonal venture. Today, she has a shop on N. Main Street in downtown Breckenridge and is open all year (her teenage son churns the ice cream). Frequent visitors know that Higgles is like the Madonna (as in the singer) of ice cream because they never stop experimenting and reinventing themselves. Flavors include creative combinations like salted caramel Oreo and goat cheese blackberry. The waffle cones are consistently fresh (Higgins says they're never older than 30 minutes), but the best part of this ice cream shop might be the views of the Rocky Mountains.
Cowlick's Creamery — Waterford, Connecticut
Cowlick's Creamery started in 2013 as a self-service frozen yogurt shop. Six years later, it's now a full-fledged ice cream parlor with a huge menu. There are more than 40 flavors of hard ice cream (Cowlick's Creamery serves Hershey's Ice Cream), and the sundae creations and custom shake options are endless. Cowlick's also makes handmade ice cream cakes and serves frozen yogurt, soft serve, Italian ice and sorbet. But what its owner, Tara, is most proud of is the environment she's created for families. There's plenty of indoor seating, an outdoor patio and a spacious yard with a play area.
Jarling's Custard Cup — Champaign, Illinois
Jarling's Custard Cup has been around in some form since 1949. Business was so slow in the beginning that the owners played cards while waiting for customers! Today, they don't have that problem. Jarling's Custard Cup is so busy (possibly due in part to Tom Hanks tweeting about it) that it now has a drive-thru. Jarling's uses dairy from Midwestern farms and, unlike other custards, it doesn't have egg yolks as an ingredient. It's made on site, in small batches throughout the day. While there are only a few flavors — vanilla, chocolate, lemon and strawberry are always on hand — customers can add Jarling's signature "cold fudge" or make a "snowstorm." It's basically Jarling's Custard Cup's answer to Dairy Queen's blizzard.
Martha's Dandee Cream — Queensbury, New York
Driving into Lake George, Martha's Dandee Cream is impossible to miss. If you don't see the long lines at the ice cream windows, just look for the huge rooster — inspired by a real life rooster, Charlie, who used to entertain customers. What's unique about Martha's Dandee Cream is that instead of menus it has "flavor calendars." They show an entire month's worth of daily flavors. Yes, they change daily. There are about 12 new flavors each day. However, you can always count on classic vanilla and chocolate being available.
Memorial Team Ice Cream — Mount Rushmore, South Dakota
Did you know that Thomas Jefferson is credited with inventing America's first recipe for vanilla ice cream? Whoa. Today, it can be found in the Jefferson Papers at the Library of Congress. Or you can taste it for yourself by getting a cone from Memorial Team Ice Cream at Mount Rushmore. The "TJ's vanilla ice cream" served at this iconic landmark is based on his original recipe and even uses vanilla beans from the same place Jefferson would have sourced his (in France). Is there a better way to honor the former president than by eating his ice cream under a 60-foot-tall granite carving of his face?