Summer means ice cream, and the Bay Area is a frosty wonderland of ice cream riches right now. From avant-garde microcreameries serving outlandishly imaginative flavors to old-fashioned homey parlors dishing up the classics of yesteryear, there’s an ice cream shop for every palate. Check out our exhaustively researched list below for stalwart favorites, exciting up-and-comers, and even a few unorthodox spots you wouldn’t expect to find a really fab scoop of ice cream! You’ll be fully prepared once summer vacation starts and the kids are asking for a cone.Ice Cream Isabelle

San Francisco

Bi-Rite Creamery and Bakeshop
Bi-Rite Creamery, a San Francisco institution, is just steps away from another SF destination-must, Dolores Park; ice cream after a romp in the kids’ playground makes for a grand outing. Bi-Rite uses mostly organic, local milk products to make their sweet treats, including kid favorites like ricanelas (cinnamon with snickerdoodle cookie pieces) and malted vanilla with peanut brittle and chocolate pieces. There’s almost always a line out the door, so if your brood is getting impatient, try the soft-serve line: it’s usually shorter, and you can score ice cream sandwiches and popsicles from there as well.

3692 18th St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-626-5600

550 Divisidero St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-551-7900

Online: biritecreamery.comHumphry_Slocombe_Matilda

Photo: courtesy of Humphry Slocombe

Humphry Slocombe
Head to Humphry Slocombe for the ultimate in wacky and unexpected flavors. Although they’re most famous for their exotic inventions like chèvre fig and Szechaun strawberry, you’ll still be able to find more kid friendly delights like Wexler’s root beer and malted milk chocolate. If you’re downtown and find yourself with a sudden craving for their Secret Breakfast (bourbon ice cream with cornflakes), there’s a second location in the Ferry Building.

2790A Harrison St.
San Francisco, Ca

1 Ferry Building
San Francisco, Ca

415-550-6971
Online: humphryslocombe.com

ice_cream_barPhoto: courtesy of Ice Cream Bar

Ice Cream Bar 
Ice Cream Bar is the coolest, and not just because of the ice cream. It’s a full service 1930s style soda fountain, down to the servers in bow ties and paper hats. The bar at the back of the shop serves genuine old fashioned concoctions like tinctures and phosphates. If you’re looking for ice cream, we suggest splurging for one of their sundaes, milkshakes, or floats. The New Orleans Hangover is a particular favorite, made with chicory coffee syrup, soda, and sweet cream ice cream.

815 Cole St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-742-4932
Online: theicecreambarsf.com

Mitchells Customers and Noel

Photo: courtesy of Mitchell’s Ice Cream

Mitchell’s Ice Cream
This long-running Outer Mission favorite has been serving delicious specialty ice cream, sorbet, and sundaes for over 50 years. Grab a number, deli-counter style, as soon as you arrive, then mull over the flavors while in line. They serve up all the classics, as well as their signature tropical flavors; we love Ube-Macapuno, purple yam blended with young coconut. They also sell pre-packed half gallons if you want to stockpile a supply at home – or make the kids really happy.

688 San Jose Ave.
San Francisco, Ca
415-648-2300
Online: mitchellsicecream.com

Ice Cream SundaesPhoto: Ghirardelli

Ghirardelli Chocolate 
If you are hanging near Fisherman’s Wharf, there are two places to score classic scoops complete with a killer view. Dating back to 1864, the Original Ghirardelli Chocolate Manufactory in the Clock Tower Building serves up World Famous Ghirardelli Hot Fudge Sundaes, plus it has a bustling chocolate shop and original chocolate manufacturing equipment on display. At a second location in the West Plaza, the Ghirardelli Chocolate Marketplace also serves legendary sundaes and features a live chocolate master creating handcrafted chocolates.

900 North Point St.
San Francisco, Ca
Online: ghirardelli.com

Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous
The most tongue-twistingly named ice cream shop in San Francisco, this Dogpatch shop is worth the visit even if you keep mispronouncing the name. Their flavors are smooth, clean, and inventive without being over the top: try Pink Squirrel (a mix of almond and chocolate flavors) or candied violet, while the kiddies will love the milk and cookies flavor. The kid size scoop is surprisingly generous and will satisfy most kids, and maybe parents as well.

699 22nd St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-970-0750
Online: facebook.com

Polly Ann Ice Cream
Polly Ann’s has been a celebrated fixture in the Outer Sunset for over 60 years. This bright, airy shop serves a huge variety of flavors but is best known for its Asian-influenced ones. Looking for black sesame, jasmine tea or durian? This is your ice cream parlor. Overwhelmed by all the choices? Spin the flavor wheel and leave it up to fate. You may just get lucky and win a free cone! Get your scoop and head on down to Ocean Beach for some ice cream, sand, and surf with the kids.

3138 Noriega St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-664-2472
Online: facebook.com

San Francisco’s Hometown Creamery 
This Inner Sunset spot is run by two brothers with a passion for ice cream and the neighborhood. Their wildy creative, house-made flavor combinations include ginger kumquat, honey lemon rosemary and charoset (cinnamon and clove). They even offer a tasting flight of five flavors for $12. Hometown Creamery currently is the only ice cream shop in San Francisco that makes their ice creams completely from scratch in-house. We suggest stopping in for a taste of their hard work!

1290 9th Ave.
San Francisco, Ca
415-682-4977
Online: sfhometowncreamery.com

ShakeDown 
San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood may not offer the perfect place for a post-ice cream stroll, but it’s worth venturing over to try this fun little shop. ShakeDown is easy to spot thanks to its colorful murals, and hard to forget once you try flavors such as Cinnimon Toast Brunch (tastes a lot like your favorite childhood breakfast cereal) and Jacker Crack—imagine Cracker Jacks and coffee. The best deal is the Biggie: two big scoops on a waffle cone for $5.

835 Geary St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-374-752
Online: shakedownsf.comsmitten_ice_cream

Photo: courtesy of Smitten

Smitten
What started as a svelte shipping container serving up no more than 3 flavors a day has turned into a local household name, in no small part to the high-tech show that comes with a visit: Proprietor Robyn Sue Fisher developed the Brrr machine, which uses liquid nitrogen to make ice cream in 60 seconds. That means kids can watch it go from a liquid to a solid while they wait for their scoop. The original Hayes Valley location still serves a limited menu, but their newer, bigger outposts offer more choices.

432 Octavia St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-863-1518

2404 California St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-872-9414

Whole Foods Market
4800 El Camino Real
Los Altos, Ca
650-559-0100

5800 College Ave.
Oakland, Ca
510-594-7630

3545 Mt. Diablo Blvd.
Lafayette, Ca
925-385-7115

Online: smittenicecream.com

 

Swensen’s Ice Cream
This wonderfully retro-style ice cream parlor in Russian Hill is known for its rich, creamy, flavorful ice cream. The sticky chewy chocolate is one of their best sellers, or branch out and try their black marble raspberry or thin mint. Parking is tricky, so plan accordingly. Give the kids an extra thrill and hop on the Hyde Street cable car (or the 45 bus from Union Street) and let someone else take the wheel. But don’t spend all your quarters—this place is cash only.

1999 Hyde St.
San Francsico, Ca
415-775-6818
Online: swensens.com

Twirl and Dip
Twirl and Dip started out as a food truck stationed near the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park, and expanded to a brick-and-mortar shop in Potrero Hill last year. Their signature offering is an organic vanilla bean soft serve dipped in TCHO dark chocolate and sprinkled with Maldon sea salt that has grownups and kids alike queuing up for a cone. Take your kids out to the Academy of Sciences and end the day with a chocolate-dipped cone; you’ll be their hero forever.

335 Martin Luther King Jr Drive (near California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park)
San Francisco, CA 94107

1717 17th St
San Francisco, CA 94103

415-205-8261
Online: twirlanddip.com

fenton'sPhoto: Erin Feher

East Bay

Curbside Creamery 
This sweet little creamery in the Temescal neighborhood serves up scoops, ice cream sandwiches and fresh made waffle cones. There are typically about a dozen flavors on offer, from classics like Mint Chip and Peanut Butter fudge to more sophisticated tastes like Bourbon whiskey and vanilla. They also offer vegan and dairy-free flavors. For treats on the go, track down their cooler-equipped trike on the weekends at the Grand Lake Farmer’s Market, Bites at the Lake and Bites off Broadway.

482 49th St.
Oakland, Ca
510-250-9804
Online: curbsideoakland.com

Fenton’s Creamery
This spot is seriously old-school—the original Fenton’s opened in 1894, when they delivered fresh milk by horse-drawn wagon. They seem to have ignored the crazy flavor fad—dark chocolate raspberry swirl or green tea is as wild as it gets—but they have truly mastered the more than 30 classic flavors they still mix up by hand. Try one of their yummy mix-and-match sundaes to taste a few. Movie trivia: Fenton’s classic ice cream parlor was even featured in Pixar’s Up.

4226 Piedmont Ave.
Oakland, Ca
510-658-7000
Online: fentonscreamery.com

Ici
This elegant, French-inspired creamery is owned by none other than Chez Panisse’s former pastry chef Mary Canales. Needless to say their ice cream, sorbet, and sherbet are all fit for a prince (or princess!). Ingredients are all organic, local, and sustainably-raised, and all 11 daily flavors are made-fresh every day- get their signature Earl Grey if it’s available. But the best part the kids will care about? How about the leak-proof waffle cones sealed with fresh chocolate inside – don’t pass them up.

2948 College Ave.
Berkeley, Ca
510-665-6054
Online: ici-icecream.com

ice_cream_waffle_cone_iscream

Photo: courtesy of IScream

IScream
This North Berkeley’s scoop shop gets rave reviews for the high quality of their organic ice cream and their unusual flavors. Fan favorites include Mexican chocolate, Thai tea, and Meyer lemon cream. You’re allowed to split even just one scoop between two flavors – perfect for little kids with small appetites but who can’t decide on what flavor to pick. Their heavenly homemade waffle cones come in plain and chocolate, if you’re feeling really decadent.

1819 Solano Ave.
Berkeley, Ca
510-225-4607
Online: iscreaminberkeley.com

Little Giant robot wall

Little Giant Ice Cream
This newcomer to the Oakland ice cream scene has made a mighty impression—their ice cream is sweet, smooth, and made on-site. Kids will love peeking into the back kitchen where the ice cream is made. Chances are they’ll also love the robot-themed décor with vintage robots hung on the walls. Favorite flavors include Dirty South (caramel with pecans and whisky caramel swirl) and Mexican rocky road. Keep an eye out for their Airstream trailer dishing out ice cream around Oakland and San Francisco.

1951 Telegraph Ave
Oakland, CA 94612
510-922-1426
Online: littlegianticecream.com

Tucker’s Supercreamed Ice Cream
Tucker’s is THE place for ice cream on Alameda – they set up shop in 1941 and have been here ever since. They serve over 30 flavors of ice cream, sorbet, and sherbet in their charming, old-fashioned parlor, all extra-whipped in order to live up to that “supercreamed” title. Their ‘Tornado Machine’ will custom-blend frozen yogurt flavors—try one in a freshly-baked waffle cone. Plenty of indoor and outdoor seating makes this a nice place to linger.

1349 Park St.
Alameda, Ca
510-522-4960
Online: tuckersicecream.com

Tara organic ice cream

Photo: courtesy of Tara’s Organic Ice Cream

Tara’s Organic Ice Cream
Tara’s is a must for any adventurous ice cream lover: their flavors have a distinctly international vibe, from Butternut Curry to Black Sesame to Berbere (an Ethiopian spice). For the littles, blueberry mint or banana might hit the spot. They offer a “baby cup” size that’s just the right portion for kiddies. Tara’s also makes frappes and floats with their ice cream, or try one of their gluten free brownie ice cream sandwiches.

3173 College Ave.
Berkeley, Ca
510-655-5014

4731 Telegraph Ave.
Oakland, Ca
510-923-1567

Online: tarasorganic.com

Tara's Organic Ice Cream

Photo: courtesy of Tara’s Organic Ice Cream

Peninsula

It’s-It Ice Cream
It’s-It ice cream sandwiches are a bit of Bay Area history: they used to be sold only at San Francisco’s iconic Playland-at-the-Beach before the park was demolished. Fortunately, It’s-It lives on. Yes, you can find It’s-It in grocery stores around the Bay Area, but it’s worth a stop by their factory store, as they carry some hard to find, rare flavors like pumpkin and strawberry. Plus, the ice cream sandwiches are super fresh as they’re made right there!

865 Burlway Rd
Burlingame, CA 94010
650-347-2122
Online: itsiticecream.com

Palo Alto Creamery
Palo Alto locals used to flock here for the 15-cent milkshakes. Sure, that was 1923, but besides the price, not too much has changed since then. Come here for the ultimate old-timey diner experience, with breakfast served all day, burgers, fries, and ice cream sundaes, of course. Kids will get a kick out of ordering their banana split or double scoop of Peppermint Fudge Ripple from an actual soda jerk, and taking a spin on the red vinyl counter stools.

566 Emerson St.
Palo Alto, Ca
650-323-3131
Online: paloaltocreamery.com

Powells sweet shoppe

Powell’s Sweet Shoppe
Yes, it’s a bit gimmicky, but with candy piled to the ceiling, your kids will explore this place with wide-eyed wonder. This is the best old-time candy store we’ve found, full of classic favorites and more modern delights, and a huge selection of gelato at the front to boot. Score a scoop of gelato and hit the row of movie seats to view some of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, while your kids enjoy the retro Galaga and Donkey Kong arcade games.  P.S. There are also Powell’s locations in Los Gatos, Novato, Berkeley, and Lafayette.

1166 Howard Ave.
Burlingame, Ca
650-344-4478
Online: powellsss.com

Ice Cream Float

Rick’s Rather Rich Ice Cream
This ice cream shop is tucked away in an unassuming shopping center, but offers up a “rather rich” experience. They carry 48 flavors of ice cream, all hand-made in small batches, as well as their version of a popsicle, called ‘frozen ice.’ Try a lavender honey or a white chocolate ginger scoop. Their beautiful ice cream cakes are also perfect for your kid’s next birthday party. Take a hint from Rich’s store motto: “Eat Ice Cream for Daily Happiness”.

3946 Middlefield Rd.
Palo Alto, Ca
650-493-6553
Online: ricksicecream.com

Scoop Microcreamery
Scoop is indeed a micro-sized store, but it’s hard to miss when you’re walking down University Avenue – there’s always the amazing scent of fresh waffle cones wafting out the door. Scoop’s ice cream is made with liquid nitrogen, although not to order; available flavors are displayed already made in the case. The speculoos(biscoff) flavor is not to be missed, and don’t forget to add a freshly made waffle garnish!

203 University Ave
Palo Alto, CA 94301
650-323-1203
Online: scoopmicrocreamery.com

Tin Pot ice cream

Photo: courtesy of Tin Pot Creamery

Tin Pot Creamery 
This sweet spot was started by a former dessert chef at Facebook, and today its “likes” are off the charts. No wonder, with it’s fabulously rich, smooth ice cream and a constantly rotating menu of flavors like orange dreamsicle and roasted banana fudge ripple. Don’t forget about their ice cream cakes and pies when your kiddies’ birthdays roll around. Tin Pot has kept tech-connected by partnering with Postmates and Door Dash, so you can get ice cream delivered to your front door.

855 El Camino Real, #121
Palo Alto, Ca
650-327-1715

201 First St.
Los Altos, Ca
(650) 947-4996

Online: tinpotcreamery.com

three_twins_ice_cream

Marin

Fairfax Scoop
This tiny place always seems to have a line outside—one reason may be that it’s only seven feet wide inside, but the another is that this Fairfax mainstay has been making some of the best ice cream since it opened its doors in 2001. One of the first all organic establishments, and an early outpost for experimental flavors like honey lavender, locals swear by this mini locale. Pick from 12 rotating flavors daily, and be sure to bring cash, as no credit cards are accepted.

63 Broadway Blvd.
Ca, Fairfax
415-453-3130
Online: yelp.com

Lapperts ice cream

Photo via Yelp by Maleah M.

Lappert’s
For a little taste of Hawaii in downtown Sausalito, follow the smell of waffle cones and coffee. Three generations of Lapperts have been whipping up island inspired flavors such as Kaua’i pie or Hawaii Pink Sea Salt Caramel. Kids might go nuts over the Cookie Monster-inspired ice cream tinted blue and studded with cookie bits. Mom and Dad can get their own pick me up in the form of a Hawaiian cup of joe. Be warned, service is a bit confusing: they advise to go directly to the counter if you’re ready to order.

689 Bridgeway, Sausalito, Ca
415-331-3035
Online: lapperts.com

Noci
Gelato Bay Area style – organic, made with locally sourced ingredients, with dairy-free and nut-free options. Noci’s gelato is deliciously rich and satisfying, and they feature all the traditional Italian flavors, including stracciatella (chocolate chip) and bacio (chocolate hazelnut). The blood orange and strawberry sorbettos are also excellent. Bonus: they offer gluten-free waffle cones.

17 E. Blithdale Ave.
Mill Valley, Ca
415-388-2423
Online: nocigelato.com

Pizzeria Picco 
Sure, this is a pizza joint (and a fantastic one at that), but those in the know come for the Strauss soft serve ice cream. The first choice is simple: chocolate, vanilla or swirl. But then things get interesting. Try topping it with olive oil and sea salt, or getting it dipped in a Scharffenberger chocolate “magic shell.” Our go-to combo? Chocolate soft serve topped with warm caramel and sea salt. What pizza??

316 Magnolia Ave.
Larkspur, Ca
Online: pizzeriapicco.com

Three Twins Ice Cream
Three Twins has four main outposts in NorCal now, but the San Rafael location is where is all started. You can’t go wrong no matter what you order here—it’s all absolutely delish, from their lemon cookie to mint chip, made with dark chocolate flecks and real mint. Sit inside or out on the patio on warm days, or order a pint of ice cream or sorbet to go. Take the factory tour with your kids – they’ll love seeing how ice cream is made!

641 Del Ganado Rd.
San Rafael, Ca
415-492-8946

Oxbow Public Market
610 First Street
Napa, Ca
707-257-8946

Marin Country Mart
2257 Larkspur Landing Circle
Larkspur, Ca
415-461-8946

254 Fillmore St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-487-8946

Online: threetwinsicecream.com

Did we miss your favorite scoop shop? Tell us in the comments below! 

–Anita Chu and Erin Feher