From Italian-style gelato, hot fudge sundaes, or waffle cones towering with your favorite flavor scoops, Washington, DC, has a seemingly endless list of ice cream shops to visit for frozen indulgence.
When President George Washington was smitten and declared ice cream a presidential dessert, DC saw scores of shops pop up in the decades to follow. Read on to discover the best ice cream in Washington DC.
For some authentic gelato with traditional Italian influences, Pitango Gelato is your stop. This family-owned business uses organic milk and cream sourced from Pennsylvania’s Spring Wood Organic Farm, which has grass-fed Jersey cows.
Their vegan sorbets are made from fresh and locally-sourced seasonal fruit juice. There are no preservatives, additives, or coloring used in their food, just the basic needed in making delicious ice cream.
From traditional flavors of milk chocolate, hazelnut, and pistachio to newly popular flavors, like matcha green tea, halvah and pistachio, coconut choco chip, and black tea, the Pitango gelato options are vast.
You’re in for a surprise with some sorbets, like Granny Smith, Vidama – dark chocolate sorbet, mojito, and white grapefruit. But, with the classics done right, Pitango Gelato doesn’t disappoint.
- Pitango Gelato, various locations
Happy Ice Cream
Find your happiness in a scoop or pint of Happy Ice Cream located in front of Happy Gyro in Dupont Circle. You can pre-order from a large selection of frozen pints to take home or have your scoop of ice cream in hand-rolled sourdough cones.
The variety of flavors of homemade ice cream here is as lip-smacking as they are surprisingly unique – oatmeal cookie with chocolate shavings, strawberry-buttermilk with polenta crumble, coconut sorbet with milk chocolate and passion fruit, olive oil with cocoa crumble, and sour cherry. Of course, there are many more where that came from.
You can find four daily-changing scoop flavors and more by the pint. Remember, though, that they’re closed on Sundays and Mondays.
- Happy Ice Cream, 1509 17th St NW, Washington, DC 20036
Mount Desert Island Ice Cream
A nationally-acclaimed creamery with its home base in Maine, Mount Desert Island Ice Cream in Mount Pleasant, DC, crafts artisanal, small batch ice cream.
They serve some of the best cookies and cream varieties in town and experiment with unique flavors. As wacky as it may sound, some of their creative flavors include vegan caramelized pear, vegan Maple pecan, Thai chili coconut, and butterscotch miso.
By keeping their scoops for dairy-free, gluten-free, and nut-free ice creams separate from the regular scoops in the dip well, those with allergies can enjoy their ice cream here without fear.
- Mount Desert Island Ice Cream, 3110 Mt Pleasant St NW 1st floor, Washington, DC 20010
When the man running Dolce Gelati was appointed Italy’s “Ambassador of Homemade Gelato” in 2018, you can bet that it’s nothing but the best of artisan gelatos. Pope Benedict XVI even asked for a second scoop of his lemon sorbet.
Each spoonful tastes phenomenal, from the prize-winning saffron pistachio with candied lemon peel to unique flavors like peanut butter and jelly gelato or Thai lemongrass coconut. Of course, their classic flavors, like raspberry sorbet and pistachio gelato, are equally incredible.
The gelato combines local ingredients and far-flung ingredients, like Ecuadorian chocolate, Piedmontese hazelnuts, and Sicilian pistachios, to name a few. Stop by their Downtown, DC home, for some of the best gelato in DC, if not the USA!
- Dolci Gelati, various locations
Ice Cream Jubilee
Who doesn’t love a thin and crispy waffle cone to hold their ice cream scoops? You can choose regular, chocolate, or a mixed batter waffle cone at Ice Cream Jubilee! What started as home tasting parties for friends has grown into this popular spot winning local DC favorite awards over the years.
You can take your pick of their small-batch ice creams in different flavors in pints or scoops over three locations in DC. Their whimsical flavors include, banana bourbon caramel, honey lemon lavender, caramel popcorn, and Thai iced tea.
The ones that you just can’t miss are Cookies and Cookie dough ice cream, Snickers snickerdoodle, and the refreshing passion-fruit guava sorbet.
- Ice Cream Jubilee, T St NW and near the Navy Yard, and other various locations
The Union Market in DC is the go-to place for all things dairy and all your classic ice cream needs.
The Creamery has a mind-boggling selection of hard-serve ice creams, aside from selling local farmers’ milk, cheese, butter, and other dairy products. They aim to connect people around quality foods, farms, and producers.
While they have classic flavors like chocolate, vanilla bean, strawberry, and cookies and cream, their other delicious options include grape-nut, chocolate peanut butter, salted caramel, coffee, and chocolate strawberry.
Get your scoops or pints to-go, and pick from soft serve, homemade waffle cones, and a range of other sweets while you’re here.
- The Creamery, 1309 5th St NE, Washington, DC 20002
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream
Although not native to DC, this Ohio-based, ice cream chain could easily pass for a local shop with not one but six area ice cream parlors.
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream has many things to boast about besides its impressive ice creams. The founder is a James Beard award-winning author of two cookbooks, termed “worth the drive to Ohio” as per New York Times and “the best in America” as per Time magazine.
As funky as some of their favorite flavors may sound, each one is an extraordinary flavor. This includes goat cheese, red cherries, buttermilk rainbow sorbet, brambleberry crisp, wildberry lavender, and brown butter almond brittle.
Jeni’s is so popular that their founder Jeni Britton Bauer can be considered to have a cult following of which I am a member, especially on a hot day!
- Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, 14th St NW B, Washington and other various locations
Moorenko’s Ice Cream Cafe
Moorenko’s has proudly earned a place on some of the most exclusive menus in North America. Their ultra-premium ice cream is a French custard, and with more pure cream than most other brands and less sugar.
They make artisanal, small batch ice cream with the finest, seasonal natural ingredients and locally sourced dairy. From their Capital Hill, DC shop, you can pick some classic flavors like chocolate chip, vanilla, and strawberry.
Their small batches include cotton candy gummy bears, cinnamon cappuccino, blackberry chocolate chip, key lime pie, and Moka chocolate chip, among others. They even have a fantastic selection of sorbets, including pineapple, orange ginger, grapefruit Campari, and coconut, apart from many classic flavors.
- Moorenko’s Ice Cream Cafe, 8030 Georgia Ave, Silver Spring, MD 20910
Additional places for the best ice cream in Washington DC
- Thomas Sweet, 3214 P St NW, Washington, DC 20007 – original opened in Princeton, but this one is in old town Alexandria and the one-stop shop for blend-in options. Coffee Oreo is the way to go!
- The Dairy Godmother, 2310 Mt Vernon Ave, Alexandria, VA 22301 – a bit outside of DC – know for their rotating daily flavor of custard!
- Nicecream, 2831 Clarendon Blvd, Arlington, VA 22201 – if you love liquid nitrogen made ice cream, this ice cream parlour is for you!
The cherry on top!
Seeing how much Americans love their ice creams, it’s not surprising to see an overwhelming number of options in capitol city. From refreshing sorbets, smooth gelatos, or the classic flavors, now you know where you can find the best ice cream in Washington, DC.