When your little sugar babes scream for ice cream this summer, we’ve got the scoop on the most delicious ice cream shops near you to visit. From classic freshly-made mint chip and healthier shaved ice watermelon balls to crazy campfire churro marshmallow creations and authentic Italian creamy gelato, the perfect frozen treat is waiting for you. Read on for the sweet deets on where to order up the best ice cream in San Diego.

3TEN Churrobar

Looking for an ice cream, churro, marshmallow treat? You'll find it at the recently-opened 3TEN Churrobar in Mira Mesa. They have several combinations of Churro Ice Cream and this Campfire one hits the spot with vanilla ice cream, chocolate drizzle, marshmallows, graham cracker and a fresh-baked churro—yum! Other cool creations include the Late Night Snack with sea salt caramel and peanut butter chips or the Fortune Cookie with Matcha ice cream and purple chocolate drizzle.

Good to know: If you like to DIY then go ahead and create your own combo of churro, ice cream, drizzle and toppings.

8111 Mira Mesa Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92126
858-800-1068
Online: churrobar.com

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Snowy Village

If you want a healthier cold treat, then the shaved ice at Snowy Village is right up your alley. Try one of the Snow Bowls: fluffy, creamy snow ice made with lactose-free milk, handmade syrup and no fructose. One of our faves is the gigantic Watermelon Snow Bowl that sits in half a mini watermelon and is filled with watermelon balls, vanilla ice cream and snow. On the other hand, if you want something sweet and unique you can add-in their take on a Taiyaki: a Japanese fish-shaped treat. Snowy Village uses croissant pastry that they coat with brown sugar and filling in the middle. Little eaters love the Nutella and strawberry filling.

Good to know: If it's super busy, avoid the line and order at the self-service kiosk in the store.

8270 Mira Mesa Blvd, Suite C
San Diego, CA 92126
858-860-5086
Online: san-diego-snowy-village.site

Frost Gelato

Try the authentic taste of Tuscany gelato at Frost Gelato. From seasonal favorites like peppermint and blueberry to sweet staples like dark chocolate and pistachio, the flavors change daily. You can scoop up your dish with one to three flavors. Even more, every cup comes with a mini edible cookie straw. So cool down and check out this gelato hot spot on Paseo Del Sur.

Good to know: They pack the gelato in the cup, so you get a good portion for the size of the cup.

16490 Paseo Del Sur
San Diego, CA 92127
858-312-6679
Online: frostgelato.com

Sweet Cloud Creamery

This made-to-order ice cream involving liquid nitrogen is a nice pit stop for a sweet treat at The Shoppes in Carlsbad. The menu changes monthly, but we love creations like Bubblegummy with bubblegum ice cream sprinkles and topped with gummy bears or Strawberry Heaven with strawberry ice cream, strawberries and strawberry sauce. Moreover, they have vegan options on the menu like Vegan Snickers with vegan peanut butter ice cream using rice milk, rippled chocolate chips and honey roasted peanuts, topped with Ghirardelli chocolate sauce. Yum!

Good to know: Snap a pic of your frozen dessert at their Instagram wall in the store. Many cute backgrounds to choose from!

The Shoppes at Carlsbad
Sweet Cloud Creamery
(inside mall next to JC Penny)
2525 El Camion Real, Ste. 131 B
Carlsbad, CA 92008
Online: sweetcloudcreamery.com

photo: JoJo's Creamery

JoJo's Creamery

This decadent, artisanal homemade ice cream shop was founded by a mother-daughter duo and a visit here is a doubly sweet treat because your ice cream is served with a chocolate chip cookie! All of JoJo's Creamery ice creams, cookies, waffle cones and sauces are made from scratch. Ice cream flavors include elevated versions of classics and interesting, flavorful delights such as Cayenne Sea Salt Caramel. You'll appreciate that JoJo's Creamery ice creams do not contain corn syrup, stabilizers, fillers, artificial flavorings or food colorings. If you're looking for a next level trip to enjoy ice cream, this place is definitely what kids are calling 'extra' these days.

Good to know: Most of JoJo's ice cream is made with organic dairy from Straus Family Creamery and they always have a few vegan flavors available as well as gluten-free chocolate chip cookies and waffle cones daily.

937 S Coast Highway 101
Ste. 106
Encinitas, CA 92024
Online: jojoscreamery.com

Creme & Sugar

Creme & Sugar in Del Mar boasts truly amazing ice-cream desserts including ‘epic milkshakes,’ ice cream sundaes and ice cream floats. These sweet treats go above and beyond a typical ice cream shop with flavor, color and character combinations inspired by everything from unicorns and Harry Potter to E.T and Snow White! You should gallop, not trot, to try unicorn-inspired desserts and creative confections that seem straight out of a storybook. Standout menu item the ‘Unicorn epic milkshake’ is a magical concoction that consists of a cotton candy and vanilla shake, topped with whipped crème, marshmallows, sprinkles, a unicorn horn (lollipop), charm bracelet and rainbow belt. It costs $9-$10 depending on the size you order, so it’s definitely a splurge in every way, but well worth the indulgence–– and the look on your kid’s face will be priceless.

Good to know: Many of the dessert items are large enough to share between 2-3 people, so order accordingly!

Read our full review of Creme & Sugar here for more sweet details.

2646 Del Mar Heights Rd.
San Diego, CA 92014
858-925-7868
Online: cremeandsugar.com

photo: Beth Shea

Salt & Straw at One Paseo

Looking for a cool spot for family date night? Salt & Straw isn’t your average ice cream shop by any stretch. The family-run business conjures up wildly imaginative San Diego-specific flavors made using ingredients from local businesses. Made locally in small batches, their ice creams combine local, organic and sustainable ingredients into unique flavors you can’t find anywhere else. Their menu has two parts: permanent fixtures (called “classics”) that are so beloved they remain year-round and a selection of limited-time flavors that rotate each month. Classics here include Honey Lavender (a delightfully light purple-hued treat), Sea Salt with Caramel Ribbons (featuring hand-burned caramel with a deep, rich flavor you won’t find in your grocery aisle) and Chocolate Gooey Brownie (hot chocolate ice cream with hearty chunks of chewy brownie). Scoops are available in either cups or handmade waffle cones, in addition to milkshakes, special sundaes and pints-to- go.

Summertime seasonal flavors currently available include Goat Cheese Marionberry Habanero and Birthday Cake and Blackberries!

Read our full review of Salt & Straw's Little Italy location here.

Salt & Straw at One Paseo
3705 Caminito Court, Ste. 0580
San Diego, CA 92130
Online: saltandstraw.com

SomiSomi

Journey off the beaten ice cream path and try a new and delicious frozen treat at SomiSomi. Known as Ah-Boong in Korea, this Taiyaki soft serve is a culinary art form. Start by choosing between four flavors (or get a swirl) of: True Milk, Ube, Black Sesame or Matcha. Then choose a filling of red bean, custard or Nutella. This is piled high into a goldfish-shaped waffle cone known as boong-uh-bbang which you can top off with an array of toppings ranging from fruity cereal to sprinkles.

4620 Convoy St.
San Diego, CA 92111
Online: somisomi.com

Cauldron Ice Cream

These scoops of heaven are magical concoctions, just as the name of the shop implies. Cauldron Ice Cream, a.k.a. Home of the OG Puffle Cone, pairs innovation and tradition to create the creamiest ice cream using liquid nitrogen and a sweet, creamy base. They rotate their dreamy flavors monthly, so each visit promises something new. From bold, unique flavors like Sea Salted Carmel Crunch, H2O Rose and Vietnamese Coffee to more classic offerings like S'mores and Mint Chocolate Chip, there's something for everyone. Try their vegan, strawberry lemonade flavor that's served in a gorgeous rose shape that's (almost) too pretty to eat.

4646 Convoy St.
Ste. 111
San Diego, CA 92111
Online: cauldronicecream.com

Freeze San Diego

A scoop of Black Magic anyone? How 'bout some Dragon's Breath? The menu at Freeze SD is like none you've ever seen. Their rotating array of ever-changing flavors includes the visually stunning Black Magic ice cream which is charcoal butterscotch dusted in butterscotch morsels. Dragon's Breath is nitrogen infused cereal puffs that cause you to breathe out icy smoke. This clearly isn't your average trip to get a cone. Additional flavors on the lighter side include Creamsicle, Nutella and Salted Caramel. Flavors like Circus Cookie, Cookie Monster and Party Animal are poised to become the new "bubblegum" ice cream of yesteryear where every bite is chock-ful of sweets.

3904 Convoy St.
Ste. 119
San Diego, CA 92111
Online: freezesd.com

Kona Ice

This popular food truck can be found all over San Diego, serving up traditional Hawaiian shaved ice with a wide array of syrup flavors. Fan favorites include Wild Watermelon, Blue Raspberry and Tiger’s Blood. The best part is that the syrups are customer-accessible so you can use as much or as little as you want in any combination. Blue Tiger Watermelon? Why not?

Kona Ice
Use the online locator to find a truck near you: kona-ice.com

TREET Ice Cream Sandwich Company

This sweet spot in Point Loma offers up not just ice cream, but deluxe ice cream sandwiches. Think glazed donut with strawberry ice cream sandwich topped with strawberry drizzle or a churro sandwich with cinnamon ice cream and chocolate drizzle. Not your thing? You can still get ice cream in a cone. Not sure what to order? Try one of Treet's signature creations such as 'Rebel Without a Cause,' a hot warm brownie, chocolate chocolate chip cookie, cookie dough ice cream topped with chocolate drizzle.

TREET Ice Cream Sandwiches
3960 W. Point Loma Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92110
619-501-5320
Online: treetdesserts.com

photo: photo: Beth Shea

Creamistry

Dessert and a science lesson? Creamistry uses liquid nitrogen to freeze their ice cream, resulting in an exceptionally creamy product. They offer over 70 flavors and toppings so let your future Nobel laureates indulge with options such as Captain’s Breakfast which is topped with Cap’n Crunch cereal. Even more, they have a vegan and dairy free menu too. Try the vegan cashew base for ice cream. Read more about how they use liquid nitrogen to make ice cream here.

Creamistry
7825 Highlands Village Pl.
San Diego, CA
858-365-7797

7420 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., #108
San Diego, CA 92111
858-874-6407
Online: creamistry.com

photo: ICMonster

ICMonster

This Mira Mesa shop is putting the “novelty” in frozen novelties with their rolled ice cream creations. Rolled ice cream is a popular street food in Thailand and now you don’t need a passport to sample it. Favorite items include Strawberry Shorty with berries and graham crackers and Open Sesame with sesame seeds and condensed milk. Read more about how they make rolled ice cream here.

ICMonster
8945 Mira Mesa Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92126
858-860-5998
Online: icmonstar.com

Iceskimo

Not all shaved ice is created equally. Taiwanese “snow” is shaved off large cylinders in ribbons so pretty they resemble peonies. Flavor choices include lychee, Stumptown coffee and matcha and toppings include everything from cheesecake and panna cotta to popping boba. The folks at Iceskimo offer this pro ordering tip: "request condensed milk layered in the middle for extra sweetness and creaminess."

Iceskimo
4609 Convoy St., #B
San Diego, CA 92111
858-216-1111
Online: iceskimo.com

iDessert

The brainchild of famed pastry chef Jean-Philippe, this dessert spot will dazzle your eyes while also satiating your sweet tooth. Ordering from an iPad, customers choose from many levels of customization—a meringue base, ice cream, a cake layer, toppings—which are then quickly assembled by a staffer. If that’s not beautiful enough for you, order it “Las Vegas” style and it arrives in a mist of dry ice! 

iDessert
1608 India St., #104
San Diego, CA 92101
619-544-1033
Online: idessert.com

Niederfrank’s Ice Cream

When you’re craving nostalgia along with your butter pecan, head down to this beloved National City ice cream parlor. Their website proudly proclaims they make ice cream in the same outdated, inefficient manner they did when they opened in the 1940s: in freezers. But you’ll still get modern flavors like Black Walnut, Coconut Almond Joy and Acai.

Niederfrank’s Ice Cream
726 A Ave.
National City, CA 91950
619-477-0828
Online: niederfranks.com

Handel's Homemade Ice Cream

Check out this recently-opened (just in time for summer!) scoop shop in Carlsbad Village. Grab a giant scoop for your whole brood, after the beach, dining or visiting the Wednesday Farmer's Market. What's more, you'll from over 32 flavors to choose from. Handel's is known for its freshly-made ice cream with natural ingredients and huge ice cream cones. Little ice cream eaters love the crazy Purple Dinosaur which tastes like grape Skittles, and bigger kids go for the Oreo Dough or Chocolate Chunk. Further, if you can't choose what to order the four scoop sampler ($5.50) is a great way to find new flavors.

Good to know: Expect a line, but it moves fast, and the servers are super-friendly.

Handel's Homemade Ice Cream
2825 State St.
Carlsbad, CA 92008
Online: handelsicecream.com/carlsbad

Editor’s note: Be sure to check the hours of the ice cream shop you’re headed to––many don’t open until noon. If you’re vegan, dairy- or gluten-free, most of the shops listed here offer delicious options that you’ll love! Check their online menus to see that you too can enjoy a sweet treat at an ice cream shop, even on an alternative diet.

––Michelle Franklin, Beth Shea & Nikki Walsh

featured image: via rawpixel

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