Sundaes, scoops, and soft serve.


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. 

Goodies Frozen Custard Donutwich
Goodies Frozen Custard Donutwich | Courtesy of mmmgoodies Instagram

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.

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.

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.

The Creamery at Union Market
Courtesy of 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.

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.

Dolcezza Gelato
Courtesy of Dolcezza Gelato

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. 

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.

Ice Cream Jubilee
Courtesy of 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. 

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 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

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.

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.

Pitango Gelato
Courtesy of Pitango Gelato

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. 

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.

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