Opportunities for hiking, biking and skiing get all the attention, but the real perk of Colorado’s claim to 300 days of sunshine each year? Four seasons of ice cream weather. The Denver area is loaded with locally owned ice cream parlors serving up flavors and experiences you won’t find anywhere else.
Bonnie Brae Ice Cream – 799 S. University Blvd.
With a candy-striped awning that proclaims, “Yes! We make it here!” this unmistakable cornerstone of the Bonnie Brae neighborhood serves its ice cream with a side of small-town charm. The building at University and Ohio has housed an ice cream parlor for more than a century, according to the Denver Post, and has been home to Bonnie Brae since 1986. Today, it makes about 240 gallons of sweet treats every day.
Flavor worth trying: Cappuccino Crunch provides all the flavor a coffee lover could want, with some very satisfying texture.
Little Man Ice Cream – 2620 16th St.
Eating Little Man ice cream is more than a treat. It’s an experience. Founder Paul Tamburello sought to create an homage to the wonderment and whimsy of the American road trip’s golden era, in which tasty desserts came with a side of roadside novelty. Appropriately, Little Man operates out of a 28-foot-tall, 14,000-pound cream can, and each member of its impressive empire of local parlors features its own personality. Try Sweet Cooie’s (a classic confectionary), Constellation (served underneath an old airplane), Dang (soft serve and French fries), or Churn (modeled after an antique wooden ice cream churn bucket) for a one-of-a-kind offering. Oh, and the ice cream is pretty darn good too.
Flavor worth trying: Salted Oreo is Little Man’s signature flavor, and its sibling, chocolate salted Oreo, is an impressive vegan option.
Sweet Action Ice Cream – 1061 South Gaylord St. or 52 Broadway
Sure, Sweet Action Ice Cream is environmentally sustainable, wind-powered, sourced from local dairy farmers and packaged in compostable and recyclable materials. But its seemingly bottomless rotation of unique (and sometimes bizarre) flavors means your curiosity will never run dry. From Avocado Citrus to Fig Newton to Frosted Animal Cracker, there is truly something for everyone — even the vegans and gluten-free among us, who can scarf down a gluten-free/vegan ice cream cookiewich.
Flavor worth trying: Stranahan’s Whiskey Brickle packs the flavor of a Denver distillery into a refreshing treat.
Ben & Jerry’s – 2239 E. Evans Ave.
No scoop is more of a slam dunk for the DU community than Ben & Jerry’s. The Vermont-born business has a franchise mere steps from campus. Along with its pop culture-themed flavors (Phish Food, The Tonight Dough), Ben & Jerry’s owes its success to the crunchy chunks of cookies, brownies and fruit mixed in. (Co-founder Ben Cohen has a poor sense of smell and taste and was looking for a treat with an enjoyable mouthfeel.) While shoppers can find their favorite pint in just about any grocery or convenience store, there’s something nice about picking up a hand-scooped cone, cup or shake.
Flavor worth trying: The classic, ever-popular Cherry Garcia (cherry ice cream with cherries and fudge flakes) honors the frontman of the Grateful Dead.
High Point Creamery – Four locations including 2669 Larimer St. and 215 S. Holly St.
Gourmet is one way to describe the offerings at High Point Creamery. Delicious is another. Cofounder Erika Thomas brought test kitchen technique into the ice cream world. Ingredients like coffee, basil and mint are steeped overnight into locally sourced cream to create some of the shop’s signature flavors. For the indecisive and the curious, High Point offers five-scoop ice cream flights with wedges of waffle cone for sharing and sampling.
Flavor worth trying: Salty Dog Chocolate, created when a prep chef mixed up tablespoons and teaspoons of salt, is High Point’s best seller.
Happy Cones Co – 5505 W. 20th Ave., Ste. 190, Edgewater
If an expansive list of options is dizzying, take solace in the sweet, sweet simplicity of the menu at Happy Cones Co, which narrows your options to four classic and two rotating homemade flavors. But you may want to forgo them entirely and take a lick of their authentic New Zealand-style ice cream instead. A special machine blends sweet cream ice cream with your choice of fruit for a refreshing soft serve. A food truck helps Happy Cones distribute its delicacies at events across the city.
Flavor worth trying: Hokey Pokey (vanilla ice cream with honeycomb toffee) introduces you to a traditional New Zealand flavor.