Washington DC

The 14 Best Ice Cream Shops in DC

Sundaes, scoops, and soft serve.

Courtesy of Nicecream
Courtesy of Nicecream
Courtesy of Nicecream

Washington, D.C. might be home to one of the best selections of ice cream shops in America, and it’s no mere coincidence considering that our commander-in-chief is quite the ice cream aficionado. 

Whether it’s a scoop inspired by the president or one of the spot’s President Joe Biden has been known to frequent, the nation’s capital has no shortage of shops that specialize in towering double scoops, twists of soft serve, rainbow sprinkles, and extra hot fudge syrup. There are plenty of old standbys like Thomas Sweet (a favorite of the Obama family) and The Dairy Godmother.  But more recently, newcomers like Southwest Soda Pop Shop, Ice Cream Jubilee, and Mt. Desert Island Ice Cream are adding to the city’s cool selection of shops specializing in a frozen treat. 

Courtesy of mmmgoodies Instagram
Courtesy of mmmgoodies Instagram
Courtesy of mmmgoodies Instagram

Goodies Frozen Custard

Alexandria and in a food truck around DC
It used to be pretty difficult to track down this roving custard truck. But now that Goodies has settled into a 90-year-old renovated ice house in Old Town Alexandria, you always know where to find Wisconsin-style custard. The shop will sell you its rich custard on its own in a dish or on a cone, but Goodies is really known for its over-the-top sundaes. The donutwich is just what it sounds like: a scoop of vanilla bean custard sandwiched between two donuts of your choosing, and the shop offers other sundaes, shakes, and floats as well.

Moorenko’s 

Silver Spring and Eastern Market
This Silver Spring, Maryland ice cream parlor recently expanded to a new Eastern Market location and serves 15 different flavors-from classics like chocolate, strawberry, and mint chocolate chip, to more specialty blends, like honey lavender, peppermint stick, and salted caramel with pralines. You can order by the pint or scoop, and it’s guaranteed that this ice cream is made by hand in small batches using only the highest quality ingredients.

Capital City Creamery

Congress Heights
This Congress Heights ice cream shop specializes in hand-dipped cones, sundaes and milkshakes. Aside from ice cream, there’s also custard and non-dairy options, like Italian ice, plus funnel cakes and freshly baked cookies. The top favorite flavors include strawberry cheesecake, banana pudding, and butter brickle ice cream.

Courtesy of The Creamery at Union Market
Courtesy of The Creamery at Union Market
Courtesy of The Creamery at Union Market

The Creamery at Union Market

Union Market
This spot for all things dairy inside Union Market is obviously a go-to for all your ice cream needs. The shop sells milk, butter, cheese, and other dairy products from local farmers, and also has a killer selection of hard-serve ice cream. Classic flavors like cookies & cream, chocolate, and coffee come in scoops or pints packed to go, plus soft serve, homemade waffle cones, and other sweets.

The Dairy Godmother

Alexandria
Virginia is for lovers and making all your dairy dreams come true-well, at least that’s the case at The Dairy Godmother in Del Ray, a sleepy neighborhood spot in Alexandria, Virginia. The shop specializes in creamy, Wisconsin-style frozen custard and offers other nostalgic treats like freshly baked cookies and apple cobbler. Each day, the shop offers vanilla, chocolate, and a rotating daily flavor of custard, plus there’s always a few dairy-free and sorbet options. The shop even has something for the pups, with Puppy Pops which are made from plain yogurt and peanut butter, and come in pumpkin or banana flavors.

Courtesy of Dolcezza Gelato
Courtesy of Dolcezza Gelato
Courtesy of Dolcezza Gelato

Dolcezza 

Multiple locations
Argentine-style gelato is served by the husband-and-wife team Robb Duncan and Violeta Edelman, who hails from Buenos Aires, at Dolcezza. Since opening their first shop in Georgetown in 2004, the couple has built a mini-gelato empire with a half-dozen outposts in the DC region and pints in local grocery stores. Try an affogato if you’re looking for a buzzier treat, or sample the peanut butter stracciatella for a salty-sweet scoop that’s downright delicious. 

Dolci Gelati

Shaw and Alexandria
One bite of Dolci Gelati’s artisan gelatos, and you might feel as if you’ve been transported to the streets of Rome or Siena. Well… turns out the locations are in Shaw and Alexandria, but chef Gianluigi Dellaccio uses authentic Italian recipes that have been in his family for generations. His gelatos combine local and far-flung ingredients, like Sicilian pistachios, hazelnuts from Turin, chocolate from Ecuador.

Courtesy of Ice Cream Jubilee
Courtesy of Ice Cream Jubilee
Courtesy of Ice Cream Jubilee

Ice Cream Jubilee

Navy Yard, Arlington, and U Street 
With three locations and shelf space in local grocery stores (plus an online shop, where you can get pints shipped nationwide), Ice Cream Jubilee has become a staple since it opened its first DC outpost in 2014. The shop stocks unique flavors like Banana Bourbon Caramel, MarionBerry, and Honey Lemon Lavender, but adds in seasonal offerings and specials for local occasions. For example, coinciding with this year’s Presidential Inauguration, Ice Cream Jubilee launched special flavors to honor the president and vice president, including Biden’s favorite flavor, Vanilla Chocolate Chip, available through the end of July. 

Hovermale’s Tastes Best

Fort Washington, Maryland
The name does not lie-Hovermale’s Tastes Best. And if you’re looking for a throw-back parlor on a busy thoroughfare, like something out of a scene from American Graffiti, then head to this cash-only custard stand just outside of the District. It’s a pretty simple process, pick from either tall vanilla, chocolate or swirl, then add your toppings. Hovermale’s has been around for more than six decades, and it specializes in dip top cones, too. 

Mount Desert Island Ice Cream

Mount Pleasant 
This ice cream shop came to DC by way of Maine and is a spot that’s been visited by White House residents. Mt. Desert Island Ice Cream specializes in small-batch ice creams in creative flavors like butterscotch miso, Thai chili coconut, and vegan maple pecan. On a trip to Bar Harbor, Maine during his first term, former President Barack Obama ordered toasted coconut while the former first lady went with chocolate, so you could always go with the presidential picks.

Courtesy of Nicecream
Courtesy of Nicecream
Courtesy of Nicecream

Nicecream

Multiple locations
For a true ice cream experience, head to one of the four Nicecream locations in the DMV area. The shop specializes in nitrogen-frozen ice cream, so whether you opt for dark chocolate sea salt, blueberry lemon, or another one of the flavors that are switched out weekly, the scoop will be frozen on the spot in front of your eyes with liquid nitrogen, resulting in an ice cream shop show that can’t be beat.

Southwest Soda Pop Shop

The Wharf
For the best in soft serves, shakes, and floats, the Southwest Soda Pop Shop is your spot. The ice cream vendor is located next to the Municipal Fish Market at The Wharf. And in this case you should go big, or go home. The waffle cones are made fresh daily and are massive enough to hold two scoops or a towering soft-serve twist. Be sure to pile some toppings on, too. The shop offers brownie chunks, Reese’s crumbles, assorted cereals, rainbow or chocolate sprinkles, chocolate fudge, wet walnuts, and gummies.

Courtesy of Pitango Gelato
Courtesy of Pitango Gelato
Courtesy of Pitango Gelato

Pitango

Multiple locations 
For Italian-style gelatos, look no further than this DC mainstay. Founded in 2007, chef Noah Dan delivered tasty flavors like halvah and pistachio, black sesame, and matcha green tea made from milk sourced from Pennsylvania’s Spring Wood Organic Farm-a pioneer in grass-fed, organic farming. 

Thomas Sweet

Georgetown
This Georgetown scoop shop is nothing short of a destination, so when you arrive at the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and P Street in the summertime, there’s almost sure to be a line. Be sure to look around as you wait. Thomas Sweet is another favorite for both Biden and Obama, and pictures of their visits adorn the wall alongside other old-school decorations. The shop has been operating in the District since 1979 and serves ice cream by the scoop, as well as frozen yogurt and other sugary delights, including fudge and chocolate candies.

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Tim Ebner is a food and travel writer based in Washington, D.C. He grew up going to Ocean CIty as a kid and has a strong weakness for Old Bay seasoning. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

Washington DC

15 Totally Free Things to Do in DC

A full itinerary, completely free of charge.

Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery
Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery
Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery

Washington DC is one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations, and for those of us who call the District home, it’s easy to see why. With dozens of world-class museums, murals that transform streets into galleries, and sites brimming with history, DC offers a full agenda-completely free of charge. Whether you want to try a new farmer’s market, explore a new hike, or polish off your roller skating or canoeing skills, here are some of our favourite free things to do in the District.

Flickr/gawnesco
Flickr/gawnesco
Flickr/gawnesco

Hike, bike, or stroll along the C&O Canal

The historic Chesapeake and Ohio Canal is one of the most accessible nature escapes from the District. Thanks to a multi-year restoration project, the first mile of the canal is an idyllic walk that’s easy to access in Georgetown. Stick to a short stroll there, or grab a bike or lace up your hiking shoes for a longer adventure along the 184.5-mile canal.

Jump on the pickleball craze

Pickleball is working its way up the ladder past kickball and softball as one of America’s favourite games. Jump on the craze and practice your paddling at one of the District’s pickleball courts in Takoma Park, the Palisades, and more. Plus, Washington DC Pickleball invites guests to drop in to beginner sessions to try their hand at the sport before signing up for a $30 annual membership.

Flickr/mcfeelion
Flickr/mcfeelion
Flickr/mcfeelion

Bike the Mount Vernon Trail

DC is incredibly bike-friendly, and luckily that applies to the land immediately outside of the city as well. Start in the city and bike along the Mount Vernon Trail, a scenic route that hugs the water and cuts through the woods. It’s about a 10-mile trip from DC to Mount Vernon, but you can cut the trip slightly short and end at the Old Town Alexandria waterfront-just make sure to factor in time for ice cream before pedalling home.

Explore a sculpture park

While not located in the District proper, Glenstone, an expansive sculpture park in Maryland, is worth the 45-minute drive. Tickets to the park are free (just be sure to reserve several weeks in advance), and the 300-acre space offers stunning art, architecture, and open land. In addition to its indoor gallery spaces, you can spend hours walking on paths that wind through sculptures, meadows, and forests.

Flickr/Geoff Livingston
Flickr/Geoff Livingston
Flickr/Geoff Livingston

See the monuments at night

When the sun goes down-and the summer humidity somewhat dissipates-head to the National Mall for the rare chance to see the monuments without busloads of tourists. Moonlight will give you a different perspective as you traverse the marble steps of the Lincoln Memorial or gaze up at the Washington Monument set aglow with lights.

Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery
Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery
Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery

Museum hop the day away

One of DC’s greatest strengths is its world-class Smithsonian museums that are open to the public free of charge. There is no shortage of options, from the intimate Renwick Gallery, to the sprawling National Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonians offer something for everyone. Pro tip: Some of the museums are open late in the evenings, making for an ideal date night.

muralsdc
muralsdc
muralsdc

Explore the city’s murals

Washington is home to hundreds of murals that are becoming as much a part of the city’s landscape as the monuments on the National Mall. Take a self-guided tour of these colourful creations no matter which neighbourhood you happen to be in. MuralsDC, the organization behind 150 of the District’s public artworks, is a great resource for mapping out a route to explore the city’s street art.

Hotel Washington
Hotel Washington
Hotel Washington

Take in a birds-eye view of the city

Washington looks pretty stunning from up high, and there are few spots within the city that make for phenomenal vantage points. Rooftop bars and restaurants offer epic views for the price of a drink or two, but there’s no more iconic sight than seeing the city from the top of the Washington Monument, which is completely free. Book a ticket ahead of time and ride an elevator all the way to the top of the monument and step out on the 500-foot observation deck.

Flickr/Nicolas Raymond
Flickr/Nicolas Raymond
Flickr/Nicolas Raymond

Wander through a garden

DC is home to some of the most beautiful urban gardens in the country, and many of them are open to the public for free. There is nothing like an afternoon spent strolling through, or picnicking, at the expansive 446-acre United States Arboretum or wandering through the Botanic Garden on the edge of the Mall. For something a bit smaller, explore the grounds at Tudor Place or Dumbarton Oaks (free in the winter), both of which are in Georgetown.

Flickr/ehpien
Flickr/ehpien
Flickr/ehpien

Hike the Billy Goat Trail

You can catch one of the District’s most popular hiking trails, the Billy Goat Trail, from the C&O canal. The full trail is 4.7 miles and ranges from easy to strenuous, so hike a section in and back or make the full loop for the variety.

Pay your respect at Arlington National Cemetery

Just across the Potomac from DC, Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place for more than 400,000 veterans. The cemetery is an expanse of 639 hallowed acres and the ANC Explorer allows visitors to locate graves, notable sites, and take self-guided walking tours to spots including the tomb of the Unknown Soldier as well as the final resting place of President John F. Kennedy.

Lace up your roller skates

When was the last time you went roller skating? Chances are it’s been too long. So get back into this nostalgic activity at the Anacostia Park roller skating pavilion. You can rent skates for free, just show proof of a government-issued ID, and the skating pavilion is open from 9 to 5 every day.

Help clean up the Anacostia River

We all know there’s a lot of work to be done to keep our waterways clean. Do your part, and have some fun, by participating in the city’s Green Boat initiative. On select weekends, DCers can join a two-hour guided paddle along the Anacostia River to collect trash and monitor the river’s progress.

Eastern Market
Eastern Market
Eastern Market

Stroll your local farmer’s market

DC’s close proximity to the farms of Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and beyond mean that the city’s farmers’ markets always have something to offer. Check out the year-round markets like Eastern Market in Capitol Hill and the Sunday market in Dupont Circle or head to seasonal markets like the pop-up in front of the White House that draws vendors like Cucina al Volo and Call Your Mother Deli.

The Library of Congress
The Library of Congress
The Library of Congress

Play tourist all around the city

It’s easy to forget that all those traditionally touristy activities can be fun for locals too. If you haven’t been on a tour of the White House, the National Archives, the Library of Congress, or the Capitol, this is your sign. All are free with advanced reservations. Plus, tucked in the northern quadrant of NW, the Washington National Cathedral is free and open to all. Tour the cathedral’s impressive architecture, 215 stained glass windows, 112 Gothically-inspired gargoyles, and enormous pipe organ. See if you can spot the sculpture of Darth Vader.

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Madeline Weinfield is a Thrillist contributor.

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