7 Great Ice Cream Stops in North Western Michigan

You guys, last summer Duke B and I embarked on a truly important job -- testing, tasting, and finding the best ice cream in Benzie County. It was highly fulfilling work, and I would be 100% open to transitioning my career entirely into that direction. This part is imaginary, so I get to come up with any title for that position that I'd like, and Master of Flavors kind of has a ring to it, no?

Seriously though, with the stay-at-home order slowly lifting, I feel cautiously optimistic and I am very excited to finally get to share some locally owned, small businesses that are crankin' out quality ice cream.

Stops on our Ice Cream Tour -

So, this covers a small pocket of northwestern Michigan. Mostly Benzie county, with a couple of stops outside the county lines. Sue me, I wanted good ice cream and I'm willing to travel. A little.

Moomers Ice Cream in Traverse City Michigan

Moomers Homemade Ice Cream, Traverse City - 5/5

Pros: top-quality ice cream. Every flavor is great. And speaking of flavors, they have really unique ones. I always recommend the Banana Bread and Licorice for adventurous folks. No Bake Cookie is delicious and such a duh flavor that like, why isn't this more common? The creamery is also nestled into a corner of their dairy farm, so you can peep on the cows grazing in a giant field, or wander on back behind the shop to walk through a field of sunflowers.
Cons: ALWAYS busy. I mean, line out the door, nowhere to sit, kind of busy. The ice cream is legitimately that good, but you know, just be prepared to stand in a crowd.
Standout Flavor: Pretzels Plus. *chefs kiss*

Listen, there is nothing more farm-to-table than ordering your scoops and walking out the door to be face-to-face with the cows who contributed the ingredients. Personally, I'd come for the field of sunflowers on its own, but prancing through them like a GD fairytale princess with a cone of Coffee Toffee in hand is even better than any Disney movie I've ever seen.

Moomers Ice Cream in Traverse City Michigan

Arcadia Ice House, Arcadia - 5/5

Pros: seriously nostalgic. The whole place feels very mid-century Coca-Cola. It's also very out of the way, so I've never walked in and found it overwhelmingly busy. Final, most important pro: the banana pudding ice cream. You have to like banana, obviously, but if you do, it is the best I've ever tasted.
Cons: well, it's out of the way. And there's not much in Arcadia to come for, so unless you're out for a drive or just fully committed to checking it out, this is probably not an on-the-way stop for most folks.
Standout Flavor: No contest, Banana Pudding.

Side note, I recommend taking a cruise on M-22 because it is a beautiful drive on the Lake Michigan lakeshore. And then a zip through Arcadia is just part of the package. Give yourself a hot minute to stop at the Arcadia lookout. Scout's Honor: you won't regret it. PS - it looks like this:

Arcadia Lookout over Lake Michigan

The Scoop, Frankfort - 4/5

Pros: they serve Moomer's Ice Cream, so it's a basically a local branch of the world headquarters in Traverse City. They keep a nice rotation of flavors and have a drool-worthy display of fresh waffle cones (dipped in interesting things!) in the window. They also have soft-serve and depending on who owns it this year, sometimes bulk nostalgic candy and taffy. They are usually pretty busy, but the lines always move really quickly.
Cons: They've changed ownership a lot over the last few years, so their offering kind of fluctuates. They've continued to serve Moomer's, but also randomly became a candy store, and served frozen yogurt with the toppings buffet bar shoved in the corner. It's also in a really tiny store, so it gets cramped pretty quickly, but most folks take their cone and go. The good news is it is a short walk to Lake Michigan, which is where we'd all rather eat our ice cream anyway.
Standout Flavor: Coffee Toffee.

This is my go-to. For me, it's a 10-minute drive and the proximity to the lake seals the deal.

The Scoop in Frankfort Michigan Serving Moomers Ice Cream

The Cool Spot, Frankfort - 3/5

Pros: this place has a cult-like following and like any small town with a few places to choose from, it provokes a certain allegiance. They get an A for aesthetics - and it's the one spot in town that has a window for ordering without ever needing to step inside. I think that's honestly going to be a game-changer in post-Covid life this summer.
Cons: to me, they're honestly the Wal-Mart of ice cream. Like, it's suitable and fine, but nothing is particularly stands out.

Social distancing is probably here to stay, at least for a while. I think a lot of folks are going to find an exterior serving window to be pretty attractive when the alternative is piling into The Scoop or Kilwins down the street. Side note: not ice cream, but their frozen lemonade is pretty tasty.

Frozen Lemonade from The Cool Spot in Frankfort Michigan

Buds, Interlochen - 3/5

Pros: easy - food and atmosphere. They're also sort of a soup and sandwich place/bakery/coffee shop. And they have knick-knacky stuff like a seriously condensed Cracker Barrel. So what I'm saying is you can get snacks AND ice cream AND a bookmark. And then you can sit in a smooshy comfy chair by the fire, or out on the front porch. I like to come here with my computer and write -- it has that kind of vibe, you know?
Cons: everything is kind of mediocre. Not bad, not great. It's kind of like that old saying - Jack of all trades is master of none. Well, that's true here, but it's not necessarily a bad thing. So you don't come here expecting the most exceptional Reuben sandwich of your life. You come here to fill your belly and sometimes that's good enough.
Standout Flavor: Once they had a canteloupe sorbet that was pretty interesting.

Hilltop Soda Shoppe, Benzonia - 4/5

Pros: very good ice cream that, if you find yourself so admiring of, you can purchase in quarts from the grocery store next door. They also make fancy coffee and are next door to a cutey-cute home decor store.
Cons: this is the smallest con of all time, but whatever. The location is kind of hidden. It on a side street, off a main road, but the side street is very easy to miss and sort of looks like a driveway. Trust yourself though and go up the hill.
Standout Flavor: Malted Whopper.

They're not ideally placed for people to randomly wander into, so alternately, they're the perfect "local's only" spot. I know some people are into that, so take that information and do with it what you will.

Hilltop Soda Shoppe in Benzonia Michigan

JomosHonor - 2/5

Pros: they have a drive-thru. They also have Dole Whip, which I love, on a flavor rotation that gives me an excuse to check out what they've got every few days.
Cons: You will wait forever. Seriously. It's not unusual to wait a good 20-30 minutes. And that's not even if they're busy -- I think they're just reallllllly slow. If they are busy, prepare yourself for 45 minutes. Oh and you can't escape once you're in the drive-thru lane. The building is on one side and a ditch is on the other, so even if it has been 30 minutes, you're committed to see it through.
Standout Flavor: Mango Dole Whip.

This place is just a couple miles away from home, so it is fairly convenient locationally. But if I see more than two cars in the drive-thru, I pass on by. It's mostly soft-serve that you can get anywhere else so the wait is just not worth it. You can drive over to Beulah's Dairy King in less time.


Always taking recommendations, and we got a few at the end of last year that I'll be aiming to make good on pronto. Send your recs and feel free to challenge me. I'm always down to do a second (or third, fourth, whatever) round.

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