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The Best New England Ice Cream Stands

The best New England ice cream stands...

by Eric Hurwitz. Article updated on 5/5/2024.

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The days of our parents taking us out to Bates Farm in Carlisle, Mass., was one of my greatest childhood memories. Watching Monday night baseball on a small Hitachi black and white, battery-powered television in the back of a phony, wood-paneled Ford LTD station wagon, taking brief glimpses of the wonderful countryside in between pitches, and then eating black raspberry ice cream on the car's tailgate with my brother, Marc, and an occasional neighborhood buddy, was something we looked forward to at every opportunity. The stars and sky seemed bigger than in our hometown of urbanized Arlington, Mass. The pace was more leisurely than a Perry Como concert and the flavors infinitely better than any of the 28 or 31 offerings at Howard Johnson's and Baskin Robbins, respectively. Plus, what Howard Johnson's or Baskin Robbins offered fresh air? All Howard Johnson's could offer was the smell of coffee, which we weren't allowed to drink at, say, seven-years-old. Baskin Robbins usually had an air conditioner that sounded like an supersonic jet.

Bates Farm eventually became Kimball Farm, retaining its rural charm and great black raspberry ice cream (and so much more than that just that flavor). The main Kimball Farm located in Westford, Mass., however, didn't retain its quiet nature, expanding their ice cream stand with a miniature golf course, driving range, gift shop and an area for concerts (Gary "Dream Weaver" Wright once played here). The point is that even when an ice cream stand goes "Hollywood," you can't take the ice cream away. Just sample Kimball Farm's cherry vanilla or orange pineapple or just plain chocolate, and you'll realize that great ice cream rules over everything else.

Sometimes the rural charm worked against a good ice cream experience. For the longest time, the smell of cow dung overwhelmed the joys of eating ice cream at Richardson's in Middletown, Mass. The smell isn't there anymore -- we suspect that there is an Army of Sharper Image air purifiers behind the trees that took care of this problem. Whatever the case, the air is more fresh, which makes the ice cream taste fresher.

Most ice cream stands are seasonal. One of the saddest sites is watching an ice cream stand "board-up" around Columbus Day. "Boarding up" takes away our love of ice cream, and suggests that it's going to soon snow like crazy -- a truly dreadful combination. You don't want to wish away time, but you do waiting for March to come around. Immediately after Columbus Day, you start thinking wishfully that the local Stop and Shop supermarket will offer Bubbling Brook (Westwood, Mass.) or Bedford Farms ice cream (Bedford and Concord, Mass.) to help us get through the winter, but it usually ends up to be some turgid brand, with no resemblance to our favorite ice cream stand ice cream.

When the long hard winter ends, there's nothing quite like seeing those boards come off the walk-up windows. Sometimes the snow continues but customers, nevertheless, line up. It makes you wonder how good a business some of the ice cream stands would do if they stayed open all year.

If spring suggests life in the form of ice cream stands, Memorial Day weekend signifies, to many, the beginning of summer. For example, great recent warm weather memories of White Farms in Ipswich, Mass., tie in with how previous generations felt about this institution that has been delighting families since 1953. Located on a quiet part of Ipswich on scenic Route 133 on the North Shore in Massachusetts, White Farms has always been a family tradition, especially after a long day at the stunning Crane's Beach or a day by the water and shops in the toy-like village of Newburyport. White Farms remains a timeless New England classic ice cream stand in one of the more beautiful areas of the state -- but only during the warm weather. Theere's really nothing quite like eating homemade ice cream on a White Farms picnic bench under the stars. Dad listens to the Red Sox game on the nearby car radio. Mom loves the pastoral setting that calms the children. The children marvel at the animal farm. They all love the ice cream. It is as much about a New England summer as the beach, the Red Sox, Cape Cod, or New Hampshire's White Mountains.

It would really be an injustice to not experience a New England ice cream stand during the summer. Almost never the focal point of the day, it is more a perfect companion to the beach, the mountains, a Sunday drive, or as an alternative to staying in air conditioning during the hot summer months. In its own right, the New England ice cream stand many times stands on its own as a nice scenic place to be as many have their own farms, animal displays, or at the very least a peaceful atmosphere to enjoy the flavor of your day. New England boasts many great ice cream stands, but we have set up a basic list for you to pick from. Enjoy!

The top 10 New England ice cream stands:

1. Crescent Ridge Dairy Bar - Sharon, Mass.

Crescent Ridge Dairy Bar offers huge servings of the best ice cream we have tasted, to date, in New England with 50-year-old family recipes handed down through the generations (the dairy farm has been in business since 1932). National Geographic twice named this modest, but always crowded little ice cream stand as one of the best in the world in its The 10 Best of Everything: An Ultimate Guide for Travelers! Top picks amongst the 40, or so choices: chocolate ripple, S'mores, orange pineapple, peppermint stick, black raspberry and mint chocolate chip. Crescent Ridge also boasts a wonderful atmosphere with farm land and the magic of summer at a local New England ice cream stand with fresh air, cows in the field, the welcoming dairy bar lights on a starry night, and people leisurely eating their ice cream at picnic tables. Crescent Ridge Dairy, 355 Bay Rd., Sharon, Mass. Tel. (781) 784-2740. Open year-round. Read the full story on Crescent Ridge Dairy

Crescent Ridge S'mores ice cream from Crescent Ridge Dairy in Sharon, Mass.

S'mores ice cream from Crescent Ridge Dairy Bar.

2. Kimball Farm Ice Cream - Westford, Carlisle, Lancaster, Mass.  and Jaffrey, N.H.

Famous for its ice cream, great value, approximately 40 terrific flavors and long lines, Kimball Farm (established in 1939) is just as good as ever. Expansion hasn't affected the quality of the ice cream with wonderfully creamy, accurate-tasting flavors. The small is like a large at many other places -- no "gourmet" attitude here to jack up the prices. Our recommendations: raspberry chocolate chip, cherry vanilla chip, butterscotch, pistachio nut, featured flavors like Irish coffee, gingersnap molasses, pumpkin and Heavenly Hash, and the gargantuan Kimball Special with your choice of three flavors, bananas and all the toppings. The flagship Westford, Mass., location is a tourist attraction on its own with an outdoor restaurant featuring local seafood, a country store with cafe, mini golf, bumper boats, batting cages, arcades, driving range, zip lines and animal displays. It's all fun and entertaining, but, to me, the amazing ice cream is still the main draw in Westford. I also equally love the Carlisle location for its more laid-back rural setting. Of course, the ice cream is just as good in Carlisle and at the other locations!

Kimball Farm locations: Westford 400 Littleton Rd. Tel. 978-486-3891. 2 Lancaster 1543 Lunenberg Rd. 2018. Tel. 978-534-9800. Carlisle 343 Bedford Rd. Tel. 978-369-1910. Jaffrey 158 Turnpike Rd. Tel. 603-532-5765. Read the full story on Kimball Farm

Kimball Farm ice cream stand in Westford, Mass.

Kimball Farm in Westford.

Black raspberry ice cream from Kimball Farm in Carlisle, Mass.

Black raspberry ice cream from Kimball Farm in Carlisle.

3. Four Seas Ice Cream - Centerville, Mass.(Cape Cod)

What a perfect combination: the fresh salt air oceanside presence of Cape Cod and a great ice cream stand. Since 1932, Four Seas Ice Cream has been serving locals and vacationers some wonderfully innovative ice cream flavors. Dating back to childhood (no, not from 1932!), this writer has tasted amazing flavors like cantaloupe, ginger and lemon stick, as well as the obvious choices like vanilla, chocolate and strawberry.

Homemade cantaloupe ice cream from Four Seas in Centerville, MA.

Regarding the strawberry ice cream: In June, owners Doug and Peggy Warren source fresh local strawberries that Four Seas Ice Cream includes in the strawberry ice cream (and with no artificial flavors and colorings).

Peach ice cream gets similar treatment with the fruit delivered in early July from Georgia and the Carolinas and sold in fabulous ice cream form for about two months at Four Seas.

Four Seas also makes its own hot fudge and whipped cream on a daily basis during the peak business seasons.

Four Seas is a great companion to a sunny Cape Cod day. It is much a part of the Cape Cod experience as the beaches, sand dunes, seafood and lighthouses! Four Seas Ice Cream, 360 S Main St, Centerville, Mass. Tel. (508) 775-1394. Read the full story on Four Seas Ice Cream

Four Seas Ice Cream, Centerville, Mass.

Four Seas Ice Cream.

4. Hayward's Homemade Ice Cream - Nashua, N.H.

Hayward's exemplifies that straight-from-the-farm ice cream taste better than most in New England. Creative, bursting-with-flavor ice cream selections like blueberry cobbler, strawberry cheesecake with a strawberry and graham cracker crunch swirl, Southern apple pie, Fluffernutter, and banana fudge make the trip worthwhile, but you can't go wrong with good old fashioned vanilla, chocolate and strawberry, either! A classic cream stand since 1940, Hayward's has certainly grown its business through the years but never lowered the quality -- the homemade ice cream taste, to go along with the well-known and appreciated friendly service, is what's still prominent. Hayward's Homemade Ice Cream, 7 Daniel Webster Highway, Nashua N.H. (Tel. 603-888-4663) and 364 Daniel Webster Highway, Merrimack, N.H. (Tel. 603-888-4663) Read the full story on Hayward's

Strawberry cheesecake ice cream from Hayward's Ice Cream in Nashua, N.H.

Strawberry cheesecake ice cream with a strawberry and graham cracker crunch swirl from Hayward's Ice Cream.

5. The Ice Cream Machine - Cumberland, R.I.

The Ice Cream Machine always seems to draw crowds, even during the colder winter days in New England -- no surprise, given the friendly staff, high quality ice cream, big servings and many flavor options.  During the peak season, the Ice Cream Machine offers around 40 ice creams, including innovative gems like cinnamon, key lime pie, brownie batter, ginger, raspberry cheesecake, raspberry truffle and also a bluberry pie frozen yogurt. Sundaes are huge even at a small size, like this delicious strawberry shortcake sundae with strawberry ice cream...

Strawberry Shortcake sundae from The Ice Cream Machine in Cumberland, R.I.
Strawberry shortcake sundae.

Located across from Diamond Hill State Park in a rural, prototypical ice cream stand setting (walk-up windows loaded with handwritten flavors and descriptions to the side), the Ice Cream Machine's ice cream has a wonderful texture and taste -- heavy on authentic flavors and butterfat. The creative flavors, along with old standbys chocolate chip, vanilla, strawberry and mint chocolate chip, make the Ice Cream Machine a truly standout New England ice cream stand. Ice Cream Machine, 4288 Diamond Hill Rd, Cumberland, R.I. Tel. (401) 333-5053. Open year-round. Read the full story on the Ice Cream Machine

The Ice Cream Machine, Cumberland RI
The Ice Cream Machine, Cumberland, R.I.

6. Bedford Farms - Bedford, Mass.

Sixteen percent butterfat equals very tasty ice cream. Yes, the fat content might tip the diet scales in the wrong direction, but then again, do you really want to pass on some of the best ice cream in New England, including red raspberry chip, ginger, orange pineapple, Green Monster (mint chocolate chip with Oeros and fudge) and chunky chocolate pudding? Some consider Bedford Farms as the place to go when nearby Kimball Farms in Carlisle is too busy, but proponents say that the ice cream is every bit as good, if not better. Bedford Farms, 18 North Rd. Bedford, Mass. Tel. (781) 275-6501.

Green Monster ice cream -- mint chococolate chip, Oreo pieces and fudge -- from Bedford Farms in Bedford, Massachusetts.

Green Monster ice cream featuring mint chocolate chip, Oreo pieces and fudge, from Bedford Farms.

7. Bubbling Brook Ice Cream - Westwood, Mass.

Bubbling Brook ice cream stand in Westwood, Mass.

Bubbling Brook ice cream stand and restaurant in Westwood.

Bubbling Brook, established in 1952, is a classic, idyllic ice cream stand with its people lining up at the order windows, picnic benches on expansive grounds alongside a brook, and bright under-the-roof yellow lights warmly illuminating the nighttime. A beautiful view of rolling farm land in neighboring Walpole can be seen from the ice cream stand. Bubbling Brook offers some excellent ice cream flavors, including pistachio, butter crunch, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, mocha chip, black raspberry chip, Heavenly Hash, "Chocolate, Chocolate Chip," and peppermint stick. Very good soft serve ice cream is served, too, including the "Brook Blasts" with combinations of yummy mix-ins and toppings making a great thing that much better.

Strawberry Brook Blast from Bubbling Brook Ice Cream in Westwood, MA..Strawberry Brook Blast.

A true local,seasonal tradition is the stuff that ice cream stand dreams are made of -- lucky for those seeing those dreams come true in the Boston area!

Bubbling Brook, 152 High St. (Route 109), Westwood, Mass. Tel. (781) 762-9860. Read the full story on Bubbling Brook

8. White Farms Ice Cream - Ipswich, Mass.

Since 1953, families have been magnetized to White Farms Homemade Ice Cream and with good reason: the tranquil surroundings, family-friendly atmosphere and amazing ice cream are a combination that captures the essence of New England summer fun. Located on a quiet stretch on Route 133, White Farms offers both hard and soft-serve ice cream. The key lime pie ice cream is an ambitious idea that exceeds all expectations -- one try and you'll prefer it to the traditional key lime pie dessert. Raspberry chocolate truffle and M&M flavors may be offered by many quality ice cream stands, but somehow it tastes best at White Farms. Of course, the basics --chocolate, vanilla and strawberry -- ggo beyond basic at White Farms with the richest taste possible. They also have a mini-golf course. This is the "feel good" ice cream stand of New England. It also makes a perfect companion to a day at nearby Crane's Beach, or Newburyport, a lively, interesting coastal community in New England. White Farms Ice Cream, 326 High Street, Ipswich, Mass. Tel. (978) 356-2633. Open year-round.

White's Ice Cream, Ipswich, Mass.
White Farms Ice Cream. Photo credit: White Farms Facebook fan page.

9. Fox's Lobster House - York, Maine

This famous lobster house restaurant -- known for its fresh Maine lobster and spectacular views of the ocean -- also gets high makes for its attached seasonal ice cream stand. Many opt for the delicious wild Maine blueberry ice cream with the local fruit combining perfectly with the thickly textured ice cream. Better yet, get that flavor with a slice of wild Maine blueberry pie. It is simply to die for.

Wild Maine blueberry pie ice cream and pie from Fox's Lobster House in York, Maine.
Wild Maine blueberry pie and ice cream.

Also to die for are the views as Fox's just might have the best scenery of any ice cream stand in New England: It's located right next to Nubble Lighthouse, one of the most beautiful lighthouses in New England!
Fox's Lobster House, 8 Sohier Park Rd. York Maine. Tel. (207) 363-2643

Nubble Lighthouse in York Maine.

Nubble Lighthouse.

10. Richardson's - Middleton, Mass.

Long lines traditionally form at the multiple ice cream stand windows at Richardson's, and rightfully so -- they have stuck to time-tested traditional homemade recipes for generations. The 16 percent butterfat content lends a rich flavor with the highlight perhaps being vanilla. Yes, that right, vanilla! It's made with pure bourbon vanilla extract imported from Barcelona. This is hardly your basic vanilla tasting ice cream. Additionally, other flavors shine including peppermint stick, cherry vanilla, ginger and Toll House Cookie. The portions are huge, thus offering excellent value for the money. Also, the surroundings are most pleasant and fun with picnic benches, an outdoor patio with waterfalls, mini-golf, a driving range and batting cages. The iconic North-of-Boston landmark also features tours of the farm and a chance to commune with the cows and other farm animals.  The Richardson family has sure come a long way since starting a family farm in 1696! Richardson's Ice Cream, 156 South Main St., Middleton, Mass. Tel. (978) 774-5450.

Richardson's Ice Cream Stand in Middleton, Mass.

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