Strawberry Ice cream
What are dreams made of? In the hot California summer sun, the best dreams are made of fresh cream, rich milk, fine sugar and a smattering of fruits, sweets and other delectable additions. Yes, we’re talking about ice cream—a classic dessert that’s come a long way since its introduction to America in the 18th century. Back then, the flavor options were delicious but limited and the technique was acceptable, yet in need of refinement. Fast-forward to present day where the techniques are tried and true and the flavor options are endless. From classic vanilla bean and cookies and cream to the racy balsamic strawberry and ginger caramel swirl, ice cream is at the top of just about everyone’s treat list.

So in tribute to the pure yumminess of this dessert and in celebration of Ronald Reagan’s July-designation of National Ice Cream Month, we’ve put together a list of 5 can’t-miss ice-cream shops across California. If you’re near any of these terrific sweet shops this summer, make sure to find a few minutes to indulge in a scoop or two of creamy, dreamy deliciousness.

1. Bay Area


Ici Ice Cream
2948 College Avenue
Berkley, CA 94705

People wait in line for 30–40 minutes for an Ici ice-cream cone—and in a world filled with impatience, that should tell you that Ici is something pretty special. Former Chez Panisse pastry chef, Mary Canales, started the Ici shop in 2006, taking her love of desserts to a “cool” new level. She uses only the finest ingredients—all sourced locally from organic and sustainable producers—and creates an amazing mélange of flavors and treats. Since the Ici chefs make their handmade ice cream daily in small batches, there aren’t 31 flavors to choose from here; instead, there are 11 amazing daily flavors that range from vanilla and chocolate to a host of special concoctions. Just some of the fan-favorite flavors include: Honey Vanilla Black Tea, Ginger Caramel Swirl, and Lemon Mint. Bonus info: Travel and Leisure magazine listed Ici Ice Cream as one of America’s Best Ice Cream Shops.

2. San Francisco

Bi-Rite Creamery

Bi-Rite Creamery & Bakeshop
3692 18th St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
Click here for alternate location

Across the Bay Bridge from Ici is another small-batch business that Northern Californians rave about—Bi-Rite Creamery. And the long lines are proof of their devotion. All of the basic ice cream ingredients (organic milk, cream and eggs) come from Strauss Farm, just 45 miles away—and the yummy extras that go into the ice cream (brownies, marshmallows, snickerdoodles) are all made right on-site in Bi-Rite’s adjoining bakery. They also make their own hot fudge to add even more decadence to your ice cream outing! Favorite flavors include Basil, Balsamic Strawberry, Honey Lavender, and Roasted Banana—and for vegans, they even have a delectable Chocolate Coconut option. Also try their ice cream sandwiches.

3. Los Angeles

Ice Cream Lab

Ice-Cream Lab
9461 S. Santa Monica Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

The Ice-Cream Lab is a seriously cool concept brought to life in Beverly Hills. Using liquid nitrogen, the staffers whip up made-to-order organic ice creams with zero additives or preservatives. Flavors like Blue Velvet (vanilla ice cream mixed with a blue velvet cupcake), Angeles Apple Pie (vanilla ice cream mixed with homemade apple pie filling with a graham cracker topping) and Banilla (fresh bananas, Nilla wafers and caramel) are big winners—and watching the friendly workers creating a serving of ice cream just for you is a pretty nifty attraction, too. Come by often because the staffers love to change up the flavor options.

4. Orange County

Han's Ice Cream

Hans’ Homemade Ice Cream
3640 S Bristol Street
Santa Ana, CA 92704

How old-fashioned is Hans’? Well, they don’t have a website if that’s any indication. But don’t let that stop you from heading to this hidden gem if you’re in the mood for some amazing homemade ice cream. The flavors aren’t gourmet but they are creamy, just right in the sweet department and dependably delicious. Their menu looks like what you’d see in a classic 50s diner (Dreamy Chocolate Sundaes, Ice Cream Sodas, Old Fashioned Floats) and the seemingly never-ending list of ice cream flavors range from Apple Strudel, Chocolate Cappuccino, and New York Cherry Cheesecake to Rum Raisin, Spumoni and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. The shop also features non-fat yogurts and an array of sherbets. Extra Tidbit: Hans’ now accepts credit cards (could a company website be next?).

5. Central Coast

Doc Burnstein's Ice Cream Lab

Doc Burnstein’s Ice Cream Lab
114 W. Branch Street
Arroyo Grande, CA 93420
Click for San Luis Obispo and Orcutt Locations

If you’re looking for old-school ice cream fun with a modern twist, look no further than Doc Burnstein’s Ice Cream Lab. Each of the three locations features the same “nostalgic ice cream parlor” vibe with model trains chugging through the shop, super friendly workers and a lab viewing window front and center so patrons can watch “Doc and his Lab Assistants” whip up their icy treats. Flavors range from classics like Peppermint Stick, Chocolate Chip and Bubble Gum to the Elvis Special (banana with peanut butter swirl), Vanilla Chai and Motor Oil (dark chocolate, Kahlúa and fudge). Doc Burnstein’s also makes house calls—so give them a shout if you’re in need of their “Mobile Ice Cream Parlor” services.

Have you been to one of these shops? What’s your favorite ice cream spot in California?


Image Sources: Flickr, Doc Bernstein Google +, Hans’ Facebook