Favorite Ice Cream Shops in the West

Members scream for this irresistible summer treat.

A cup of  oce cream sits on the bar counter at Bozeman's Sweet Peaks West Main location.
Bozeman's Sweet Peaks Ice Cream.
Janie Osborne

“How can I pick only one? There are two really great ones in Sacramento, California: Leatherby's Family Creamery and Gunther’s. Leatherby’s is family owned (at least three generations of family members) and has a wide menu—delicious lunches to top off with sundaes, cones, malts, or any ice cream treat of your choice. Plus, the ice cream is made right there! And Gunther’s has been a Sacramento tradition for over 70 years, with wonderful ice cream made in the store. The sugar-free black cherry is to die for.” —Richard L. Friedman

“Without a doubt: Fentons in Oakland (the original) and Vacaville, California. It has been a local ice cream parlor since 1894. It was fun going there as a kid, and remains the same as an adult. The portions or smooth, creamy ice cream are beyond generous!” —Suzan Taylor

“I like Ice Cream Emporium in the small town of Ripon, California, in the Central Valley. The old-fashioned shop serves up scoops of tasty ice cream—and nostalgia.” —Paula Overbeck

“The Garden Creamery in San Francisco is a must-try. They have both dairy and vegan selections—something for everyone.” —Tom Stillman

Marianne's, in Santa Cruz, California, has been a family-run shop since 1947, and it’s still making small-batch, craft ice cream served up in a traditional parlor.” —Glenn Glazer

“Our favorite ice cream shop is Cowlick’s in Fort Bragg, California. They make their ice cream by hand in small batches, with many unique flavors. This place is not a big corporate shop or franchise, rather a family operation and very much local. You can taste that in their ice creams.” —Russ Minor

Leatherby's Family Creamery in Sacramento has been around since the 1980s, and continues to be family owned and family made. It has an old-time diner feel: The ice cream is great, the portions are huge, and the prices are fair. I make it a point to stop in every time I’m in Sacramento.” —W. Matsuura

“Our favorite ice cream is Screamin’ Mimi’s in Sebastopol, California. It’s a locally owned shop with delicious and imaginative homemade ice cream flavors that change with the seasons. It was voted best in Sonoma County and always has a line to order.” —Linda Roa

Snelgrove Ice Cream in St. George, Utah, is made on location using many of the original recipes from 1929. It has a great variety of flavors and the ice cream is delicious.” —Kelly Parker

A stack of ice cream sandwiches from Sweet Republic, Phoenix.
Ice cream sandwiches from Sweet Republic in Phoenix, Arizona.
Debby Wolvos

“My favorite ice cream shop is Sweet Republic in Phoenix, Arizona. All the ice cream is handmade and the menu rotates frequently. They even make their own marshmallows! My favorite treat is the ice cream sandwich with homemade chocolate chip cookies and vanilla ice cream.” —Jennifer Janicki

Ampersand Ice Cream in Fresno, California, serves small-batch, handmade artisan ice cream with locally sourced organic ingredients. They have eight standard flavors and ten rotating flavors that change based on seasonal ingredients or the theme of the month. They also do “Sundae Sunday” with a special twist each month, and a portion of the proceeds that day are donated to local charities.” —Megan Bremer-Durham

Leatherby's Family Creamery, with five locations around Sacramento, started in 1982. It’s always a fun place to be, especially for a birthday. The servers ask the celebrant to stand on a chair so the whole restaurant can sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to them. Lots of delicious ice cream flavors and the best peanut butter sauce anywhere.” —Nancy Mammano

Shubert’s Ice Cream and Candy in downtown Chico, California, is a little, family-owned shop that has a steady stream of customers on any given day. They make their own ice cream, and they also have candy! Some of the candies are there year round, but on special occasions—Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Easter—they make their own chocolates.” —Rose Anderson

Sweet Peaks Ice Cream—with shops in Kalispell, Whitefish, Bozeman, and Missoula, Montana—makes their own ice cream and rotates through different flavors. The ice cream is made using milk from Montana and locally sourced ingredients from the mountains.” —Kathryn Hiestand and Neal Miller

“There are wonderful, unique flavors at Fentons in Oakland, California. Try the malted Swiss milk chocolate or toasted almond flavors, or a sundae with ‘Jersey’ malted whipped cream. All the flavors have the right level of sweetness and tradition.” —John Bischoff

“My favorite shop for ice cream is Sub Zero in Provo, Utah. Started 20 years ago, it has now expanded around the country. The ice cream is mixed to order according to the customer’s specifications and then frozen with liquid nitrogen. I love this because I can choose the richness, the flavor, and any add-ins, and then it will be frozen to whatever hardness I desire. The variety is endless and the ice cream quality is superb.” —Karin Weight

Fairfax Scoop in Fairfax, California, is a hole in the wall, but an ice cream cone there is a delicious treat.” —Patricia Gonyeau

Nimble & Finn’s Ice Cream in Guerneville, California, has the most delicious and subtle flavors (and I’ve tried many, many kinds of ice creams). It’s located in the lobby of a historic building that used to be a bank, which is flooded with light on the town’s Main Street.” —Nayla Rizk

A scoop of Aggie Ice Cream blue mint ice cream in a cone.
Aggie Blue Mint ice cream.
Courtesy USU Aggie Ice Cream

Aggie Ice Cream at Utah State University in Logan, Utah, just turned 103! There's almost always a line out the door of the much loved shop. When I first visited, my favorite flavor was lemon custard. I’ve since transitioned to Bull Tracks: a mix of peanut butter and chocolate with a caramel swirl. Aggie Blue Mint is a popular flavor, and the winning variety selected by college students in the lab school on campus. It’s ice cream from cow’s milk, not chemicals, and student researchers have a hand in making, testing, and marketing it.” —Joyce Kinkead

Java Cow in Park City, Utah. Why? The flavors are all made on the premises with the best quality ingredients. My favorite, Sammy D—vanilla ice cream with caramel, heath bar, and chocolate chips—is named after the owner’s daughter.” —Glynnis Tihansky

“It's not a traditional ice cream, but Junni Dessert in Folsom, California, serves up Korean desserts that are unique and delicious. I highly recommend the soft serve taro ice cream in a taiyaki cone or the fruit bingsoo [a shaved-ice treat] with fresh fruit.” —Vickie Hayashigatani

“My favorite ice cream shop in the West is Sweet Republic in Phoenix, Arizona (with other locations in Scottsdale and Tempe). It’s not a big chain, and they have the most interesting, unusual, and delicious ice cream flavors. They also offer sorbet, which is vegan.” —Heather Okvat

“Never mind all the new, oh-so-trendy, over-priced ice creameries: Mitchell's Ice Cream has been around for more than 70 years! Still family-owned and operated, this San Francisco tradition offers a wide variety of unusual (but not gimmicky) flavors, all of them creamy, rich, and distinctive. My favorite flavor? Either avocado or Halo Halo, which includes buko, langka, ube, pineapple, mongo beans, sweet beans, and kaong (palm fruit).” —Jim Van Buskirk

“The Arcata Scoop in Arcata, California, is the best in the West. Absolutely delicious small-batch ice cream with local ingredients and evaporated cane juice.” —Ani Wangmo

Farson Mercantile in Farson, Wyoming, may be just a bump in the road on one of the routes to Yellowstone, but it serves up huge cones of great ice cream. I always get the ‘baby’ cone: three delicious scoops.” —Barbara Rose

Lottie's Creamery in Walnut Creek, California, is amazingly special. It showcases specialty flavors every week that are always made to the highest standards. Plus, each one is delicious.” —Anna Sekera

“The best ice cream in the West is actually Frost, a gelato shop in Tucson, Arizona. The flavors are spot on, and it has a good variety of choices. It makes my mouth happy.” —Vicki Lawrence

A worker hands a child an ice cream cone inside the Tillamook creamery.
Taste Tilamook at the factory.
Courtesy Tillamook

“My favorite ice cream shop is the Tillamook Creamery in Tillamook, Oregon. While some flavors are available in the supermarket, there are lots there that you can only get at the creamery. It’s always worth the trip to the mothership.” —James Nebel

“My favorite is Lappert’s Ice Cream in Sausalito, California, and in many parts of Hawaii. Mr. Lappert retired from his crepe restaurant in Sausalito, and moved to Hawaii, where he experimented with local Hawaiian flavors, such as chocolate with macadamia nut and native Hawaiian fruits. The ice cream is the best I’ve ever had.” —Tamara Cotten

“My favorite is Frost Gelato in Tucson, Arizona. It is much healthier than ice cream, yet it has a creaminess to the palate. The taste is so flavorful. My favorite is sea salt caramel. Every flavor is beautifully displayed with appropriate garnishes. They also offer a variety of sorbets.” —Donna Wertz

“I vote for Munnerlyn’s in Pine Grove, California. They are a tiny, family-owned shop with unusual flavors that are amazing! The owner is great, and even makes home deliveries when he is out and about.” —Alexis Martin-Vegue

Happy Camper Creamery is tucked away in a strip mall in Redlands, California, but the gelato and sorbet they serve up are superior to any gelato we tasted in Italy. Even more surprising, this little shop is actually a certified dairy plant that creates all of its wonderful flavors onsite. Up to 40 flavors are offered for sale in pint packages, plus there are 14 flavors ready to be scooped into freshly baked waffle cones.” —Susan Sharp

“Our favorite ice cream shop is Frankie & Jo’s in Seattle, Washington. They make plant-based ice cream that is absolutely delicious—a welcome treat for those of us who cannot tolerate dairy-based ice cream. Their flavors are creative, with seasonal-themed special flavors each month. Their high-quality ice cream and their friendly staff is fantastic. We live in California and visit Washington regularly, driving an hour out of our way to get our scoops and pints!” —Ron Dahlin

Little Truckee Ice Creamery in Truckee, California, is close to the lake and set under beautiful trees, a perfect backdrop for eating handmade ice cream in many unique flavors. The servers are friendly and the prices are not too bad. We live about an hour away and we make it a point to add it to our agenda when we are headed in that direction.” —Janice Dolley

Treats in Nevada City, California, serves up unique flavors of ice cream, homemade using seasonal and organic ingredients that come from the area. The resident owners also serve freshly baked cookies and other treats. Everything is amazingly delicious and it’s a big favorite of both locals and tourists.” —Laura Waag

Two cups of Mitchell's Ice Cream on the ice cream shop's counter.
Mitchell's Ice Cream.
Stephanie Dewey

“Hands down, my favorite ice cream spot is Mitchell’s Ice Cream in San Francisco, California. It never disappoints. They use only the freshest ingredients to create their tried and true flavors, as well as their unique flavors such as Macapuno and Kahlua Mocha Cream, which are my absolute favorite flavors. The vanilla flavor is so authentic, so homemade that you think your grandmother made it. No matter the flavor, it’s a total ice cream party in your mouth with every spoonful.” —Alma Goldchain

Farr’s Ice Cream in Ogden, Utah, makes its own great ice cream flavors, and the shop looks just like it did over 50 years ago. A wonderful place to enjoy.” —Tasma Wilvers

“During my 20-plus years of living in the Bay Area, my family has tried a lot of ice cream, and the gelato at La Copa Loca Gelato in San Francisco, is the best, hands down. Owned by a local family, the shop is welcoming with employees that are always friendly. Plus, the gelato is delicious. Every time we are in the City, La Copa Loca is a mandatory stop.” —Carmela Zavaleta

“The best ice cream I’ve ever had is from Brooker’s Founding Flavors in Herriman, Utah. The homemade flavors are all named after the Founding Fathers and Mothers of the United States. It might be super bad for your health, but they have the best-tasting ice cream this fat man has ever tried! It’s worth having to take the insulin pen with you, and then explaining to the doctor, ‘It was my birthday, so yeah, the A1C is going to be high this quarter!’” —Kevin Zebroski

“My favorite ice cream shop is Miyako Old Fashion Ice Cream in San Francisco. It offers 100 flavors of ice cream, from chocolate to peach, and amazing sundaes. Plus, the menu has sandwiches, corn dogs, and delicious nachos with mild cheese sauce.” —Andre Ross

“Not only does Superior Dairy in Hanford, California, have great ice cream, its location is ideal. You can enjoy your treats across the street at Civic Center Park or visit the Children’s Storybook Garden, which is within a block.” —Suzanne Cardoza

“Our favorite ice cream is Brocks in Yuba City, California. We live far from there, but manage to take a trip in the summertime to enjoy this great ice cream. A cone for me and a milkshake for my husband.” —Brenda Sanford

“The best ice cream in the West is Mitchell's Ice Cream in San Francisco, California. Everything they make is fabulous: I love the exotic fruit flavors (peach and mango), but the ‘traditional’ (Grasshopper Pie, Chocolate Caramel Crackle, and Mexican Chocolate) and holiday (eggnog, pumpkin, and Peppermint Candy) flavors are great too. This cute shop always has a line out the door. No trip to San Francisco is complete for our family without a stop at Mitchell’s.” —Jen King

Vic’s Ice Cream in Sacramento, California, makes its own ice cream. It’s a neighborhood hangout, and kids of all ages have been enjoying the experience for generations. I don’t live near it, but it’s always worth the trip.” —Kelvin Tsao

This article was first published in May 2022 and last updated in April 2024.