Summertime has us all screaming for ice cream! Don’t get a brain freeze over which ice cream shop to visit with your family because we’ve got the scoop on the best flavors all over town. You won’t believe the creations you can order-up from towering unicorn milkshakes and black magic to vegan ice cream and good, old-fashion classics, scroll down for the details and then head to these ice cream havens lickety-split!

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

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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
858-925-7868
Online: cremeandsugar.com

Salt & Straw

Looking for a lick of dreamy and creamy artisanal ice cream? 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. Peanut Butter Stout with Chocolate Chicharrón, Avocado & Oaxacan Chocolate Fudge and James Coffee & Bourbon to name just a few!  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 Meyer Lemon Buttermilk with Blueberries!

Read our full review of Salt & Straw here.

Salt & Straw
1670 India St.
San Diego, Ca 92101
619-542-9394
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 Milk + Cereal, 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

Viva Pops

Viva Pops
This Normal Heights frozen pop shop features a rotating menu of gourmet, organic popsicles. Styled after Mexican “paletas,” you’ll find more than the run-of-the-mill strawberry or grape pops here. Favorites include Lavender Lemonade, Blood Orange and Vietnamese Coffee. You can also find Viva Pops at the Little Italy Farmer’s Market on Saturdays.

Viva Pops
3330 Adams Ave.
San Diego, Ca 92116
619-795-1 080
Online: ilovevivapops.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 apple fritters with dulce de leche, churros with cinnamon ice cream, or cronuts with strawberry ice cream. 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: 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. 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: icmonstercafe.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: yelp.com/biz/niederfranks-ice-cream

Notes: 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

featured image: Jared Sluyter via Unsplash

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