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The Best New England Ice Cream Stands

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

by Eric Hurwitz. Article updated on 11/07/16

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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 more fresh.

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. There'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. 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.

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!

Check our reader's top New England ice cream picks on our feedback page. If you have a favorite ice cream stand, you can post it by clicking here.

The top 10 New England ice cream stands:

1. The Ice Cream Machine -Cumberland, R.I.
By far, the best, most flavorful homemade ice cream we've tasted in New England. During the peak season, the Ice Cream Machine offers around 40 flavors, including innovative gems like cinnamon, key lime pie, brownie batter, ginger, raspberry cheesecake, raspberry truffle and also a bluberry pie frozen yogurt. 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 creamy taste, heavy on authentic flavor 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

2. Crescent Ridge Dairy- Sharon, Mass.
Crescent Ridge Dairy Bar offers some of our freshest samplings of ice cream, to date. Best bet: chocolate ripple, peppermint stick and mint chocolate chip. Crescent Ridge also boasts a wonderful atmosphere with farm land and the magic of summer nights with fresh air, cows, the welcoming dairy bar lights on a starry night, and people leisurely eating their ice cream.
Crescent Ridge Dairy., 355 Bay Rd., Sharon, Mass. Tel. (781) 784-2740

3. Kimball Farm Ice Cream-Carlisle, Mass.
Famous for its ice cream, great value, approximately 40 terrific flavors and long lines. Kimballs (established in 1939) is just as good as ever, and has wonderful surroundings with an animal farm, picnic benches, colorful flowers and an isolated rural atmosphere. Our recommendations go to the raspberry chocolate chip and the gargantuan Kimball Special with your choice of three flavors, bananas and all the toppings. Kimball Farm also has locations in Westford, Mass. (original location), Jaffrey, N.H., and Saco, Maine, but we like the smaller, more intimate feel of the Carlisle location.
Kimball Farm.Ice Cream , 343 Bedford Rd., Carlisle, Mass. Tel. (978) 369-1910

4. 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 -- go beyond basic at White Farms with the richest tastes possible. 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. Also, read Visiting New England.com full length feature on White Farms.
White Farms Ice Cream, 326 High Street, Ipswich, Mass. Tel. (978) 356-2633

5. Peaceful Meadows, Whitman, Mass.
Peaceful Meadows: A long-time favorite and a household name to locals, Peaceful Meadows does a tremendous job with all the familiar flavors such as chocolate, vanilla, peppermint, black raspberry, coffee, chocolate chip, and mint chocolate chip.  Established in 1920, Peaceful Meadows lives up to its name as a quiet, tranquil ice cream stand with its creamy homemade ice cream, picnic benches, large field with cows, silo, and a dairy store. Not only does Peaceful Meadows make its own ice cream, but also chocolate flavorings and chocolate syrup!  Peaceful Meadows is one of the more popular New England ice cream stands, with long lines of people of all ages eagerly awaiting the wonderfully tasty ice cream.  It is perhaps the quintessential New England ice cream stand, perfect on a hot summer day -- and somehow remaining tranquilly isolated from busy Route 18 despite being so close to all the traffic. Peaceful Meadows also has locations in Middleborough, Mass., and Plymouth, Mass.
Peaceful Meadows, Rt. 18, Whitman, Mass. Tel. (781) 447-3889

6. The James Gallery and Soda Fountain, Old Saybrook, Conn.
The James Gallery and Soda Fountain: See fine art and eat fine French vanilla ice cream all under one roof-- The James Gallery and Soda Fountain in charming Old Saybrook, Conn., may be the best ice cream stand-art gallery in the world because it is probably the only ice cream stand-art gallery in the world. The ice cream served at this 1896 soda fountain is some of the best in New England with a high butterfat content and, in the warmer weather, candlelit eating outside next to the historic Timothy Pratt Bed and Breakfast and a great Main Street with gas lit lamps, huge homes, a flower filled median strip and some nice locally-owned shops -- absolutely delightful during the summer vacation. The Soda Fountain is a borderline ice cream stand as you have to go inside to order, but we have placed it in this category because the majority of people eat outside. The art gallery features local and independent artists' work -- a nice place to wait in line for ice cream, or become a serious art patron/customer.
The James Gallery and Soda Fountain , 2 Pennywise Ln., located at the Corner of Main Street, Old Saybrook, Conn. Tel.: 860-395-1406

7. 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 raspberry truffle, ginger, orange pineapple and chunky chocolate pudding? Some consider Bedford Farms as the place to go when nearby Kimball Farms in Carlisle is too busy, but proponents know that the ice cream is every bit as good, if not better
Bedford Farms, 18 North Rd. Bedford, Mass. Tel. (781) 275-6501

8. Heyward's Homemade Ice Cream, Nashua, N.H.
Heyward'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, 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, Heyward'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
Heyward's Homemade Ice Cream 7 Daniel Webster Highway, Nashua NH. Tel. (603) 888-4663

9. Bubbling Brook Restaurant (Westwood, Mass.)
Want a large serving of Bubbling Brook? Read our detailed feature story here!classic ice cream stand with its outdoor windows framed by lines of people, picnic benches and bright under-the-roof lights warmly illuminating the nighttime. They serve a good blueberry ice cream and an excellent double chocolate, as well as a very pungent peppermint stick. A new flavor is black raspberry chocolate chip, which is worth a special trip. Very good soft serve ice cream is served, too. They also have indoor dining, with some good nightly specials.
Bubbling Brook, 152 High St. (Route 109), Westwood, Mass. Tel. (781) 762-9860

10. 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. For decades, the Four Seas has been serving locals and vacationers some wonderfully innovative ice cream flavors. Dating back to childhood, this writer has tasted amazing flavors like cantaloupe, ginger and lemon stick, as well as the obvious choices like vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. Four Seas is a great companion to a sunny Cape Cod day, especially that lemon stick!
Four Seas Ice Cream, 360 S Main St, Centerville, Mass. Tel. (508) 775-1394

Kimball Farm black raspberry ice cream
Black raspberry ice cream from Kimball Farm, Westford, Mass.

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