The Best Ice Cream in the Upper Valley
Best Ice Cream Places in the Upper Valley
As August rolls in, so does that sudden craving for a cool, creamy cone on a hot afternoon. My sister Stephi and I set out to discover the most delicious dairy desserts in the Upper Valley, trying everything from good old soft-serve classics to exotic flavors of Sicilian gelato. Here are our reviews and recommendations.
- Dairy Twirl: One of our favorites (since before we were born, according to my mom), this downtown Lebanon stop is known for its soft serves and twists. A small chocolate and vanilla twist with chocolate dip came to $3. The Hood soft serve is, as always, deliciously milky and sweet—nearly as sweet as the friendly, local high school girls who serve it up with a smile. Although Dairy Twirl is located on a busy road, there are several picnic tables out back, and in the evenings, the line to the ice cream window stretches across the parking lot. The list of soft serves is quite impressive, with flavors like strawberry-banana, chocolate-peanut butter, maple, coffee, and even red-white-and-blue for the Fourth of July. Try their fruit toppings on your sundae or a frozen chocolate-covered banana on a stick. The quaint walk-up windows are a popular and convenient stop for locals. You won’t find much more than ice cream (and happy lickers) here, and that’s good enough for us. Perfect for an evening soft serve with your family and neighbors.
- Fore-U: Famed for MASSIVE helpings of ice cream, we were eager to wrap our paws around a Fore-U cone. Good thing we came with our appetites. A “small” is not small by anyone’s standards—three whopping scoops of ice cream. We had chocolate chip with chocolate dip ($3), and we definitely got our money’s worth. The ice cream itself was great—creamy and rich, with a strong vanilla flavor and loaded with flaky chocolate chips. Nearly as impressive as the serving size is the list of flavors. There are 24 soft serve and 38 hard serve flavors, with everything from ever-popular strawberry and chocolate to dinosaur crunch, Snickers, and nuts-for-coconut. And it doesn’t stop there; Fore-U also serves hot dogs, smoothies, floats, drinks, chips, and even “Bogie” sundaes for your four-legged friend. There’s a sunny playground for the kids, as well as tented picnic tables. Another bonus is the mini golf located just across the parking lot—a great family activity. Perfect for a family outing and BIG ice cream cravings.
- Mickey’s Cone Zone: Enfield’s Cone Zone is housed within Mickey’s Roadside Café, a popular, diner-style restaurant. The ice cream came in big servings, with three large scoops constituting a “small” for just $2.73. Our favorite was an unexpected peanut butter fudge, a tasty choice for any peanut lover. Also tempting were the brownie sundae and milkshakes. We do recommend that you take your ice cream and head outside, as the small scoop shop is a tight fit. What with orders being called in and drive-through customers waiting outside (and only one staff member on hand when we visited), we were inside waiting for a bit longer than we would have liked. Once we got our ice cream, the shady picnic table at the edge of a grove of trees was the perfect spot to lounge and lick. Perfect for a sundae after a yummy meal at Mickey’s Roadside Café.
- Newt’s Wicked Good Ice Cream: Located in White River Junction, Newt’s is a friendly little ice cream window with lots of surprises. The “mystery cone” is intriguing, a flavor picked for you by the server. The service was very friendly; our server gave Stephi a generous free sample when she asked to try Milky Way. We liked all the flavor options and sundae opportunities (24 soft serve, 24 hard serve) as well as the specialties that include ice cream cakes (any birthdays coming up?). Or try a “hurricane,” a milkshake with mix-ins like Oreos, Nerds, M&M’s, or bubblegum. The ice cream was probably the best buy we found (only $2.40 for a small hard serve and $2.10 for a small soft serve). Plus, Newt’s has a mascot, so that makes it a winner in our book. Perfect (and only place) for a HURRICANE!
- The Baited Hook: A clam shack at heart, the Baited Hook is a picturesque restaurant and ice cream window on Mascoma Lake. We biked over on the Rails-to-Trails bike path, swam in the lake, and lunched on fried scallops. But to get to the point, the ice cream was delicious, thick and dense and not too cold. We tried Cow Tracks, a local version of Moose Tracks; it was swimming in a fudgy swirl. A small was just $2.50 and nicely sized with two scoops. The service is very friendly (the waitress gave us each a squirt of whipped cream). The ice cream menu is simple, so if you’re craving something wild and crazy, save this one for another time. Did we mention the view? The shingled cabin sits on the edge of the lake, with many locals paddling their boats right over to the dock and hopping out for lunch. Perhaps the only bummer with the Baited Hook is the limited time it’s open; you can only get your frozen dairy fix in summer, from Wednesday through Sunday. Perfect for a creamy cone and a great view.
- Morano Gelato: Craving something a bit more gourmet? Scoot over to Morano Gelato on Main Street in Hanover. Made fresh daily with local and Italian ingredients, the 13 flavor offerings include hazelnut and dark chocolate, mango, kiwi, and local strawberry. Don’t be afraid to try an exotic flavor like jasmine, chocolate chili pepper, or biscotti—all are guaranteed to please. Morano gelato tastes better than any we had in Italy. Stepping into the gelateria is like walking into a shop in a European city; from fresh prosciutto paninis to an espresso bar, every detail is included. A small cone (two flavors) is $3.50, so a bit pricey, but well worth it for the quality and the intense flavors that satisfy your craving. This is not commercial ice cream; it’s the real deal. Perfect for a gourmet indulgence to tingle your senses.
What's your favorite place to get ice cream?