Travel

Top Ice Cream Shops to Visit in Southwestern Ontario Right Now!

I scream. You scream. We all scream for ice cream shops.

Well, you will ALL be screaming for ice cream and a trip through southwestern Ontario once you read about the delicious ice cream shops we have discovered here while day tripping safely during the Pandemic.

Celebrating Ice Cream Parlours

Is there anything that goes together better than summer and ice cream? Maybe, peanut butter and jelly might rival that partnership but summer was made for ice cream. Also, nobody screams for peanut butter and jelly, well nobody over the age of 5.

This month, I wanted to share the love with some area businesses. After all it has been a challenging year for businesses everywhere. Many of these shops opened after stage 2 and when stage 3 allowed them to start scooping and sharing again, we couldn’t wait to explore.

Love for Local

So, here’s the thing – these are all small independent, sometimes family owned and operated, businesses. These are ice cream shops we have discovered while out exploring this area of southwestern Ontario safely while social distancing too. I am happy to report there are more amazing inventive and flavourful options out there to help you make this COVID summer memorable for all the right reasons.

The Top of my List

Stratford

Jenn and Larry’s Ice Cream Shoppe – in Stratford

Quite simply heaven. All of the soft serve dips are worth trying. We have been back three times to Stratford mostly for this ice cream and to shop the stores safely in the downtown area. I think I will return again at least one more time for the perfect dips.

This might be my favourite of all the ice cream shops. Jenn and Larry’s ice cream is right by the waterfront. It is not overly expensive and it is so worth it. Tiny little shop, but don’t pass it by, even if there’s a line. I mean, every travel writer ever knows that a lineup of people outside a restaurant, or near ice cream shops, is indication of the quality of food inside. At least, that’s one of my travel rules when I am in a new place and hunting down local haunts to dine at.

Birthday Cake dip is the best and tastiest option here. At first, when I got this I was like OH no the colours are too light for any photos. But filters, baby. If you need a filter to highlight this then do it, but mostly you just need to eat it and enjoy. My recommendation is the soft serve with birthday cake dip. There are more dips than I have ever seen anywhere before.

I have also tried the coffee and butterscotch one and it’s good too, but nothing compares to birthday cake. In fact, a couple of my friends saw this post on Instagram about the ice cream there and they visited to scoop some up too recently.

Parking?

Down along the waterfront in the area near the theatre district and the river you can often find a spot to park. Many use the smaller lot to park and picnic near the swans. There is also pretty decent access to on street parking in the small downtown area. We had no issues finding parking this year. It’s a short walk to everything in the downtown Stratford area.

London

Merla Mae’s – in London

Oh sure, there are plenty of places in London that you can visit and grab a cone, a sundae or other confection from. But, everyone knows this place on Adelaide Street and it is the best in town. Be warned, it is rarely not busy. We have often been to Merla Mae’s ice cream and by often I mean maybe once a year. The atmosphere is kind of old ice cream shop and it could almost be at the beach with its juke boxes inside and patio tables outside.

What to Try

Flavours are varied and they have some frozen yogurt too. That’s what I used to get every time we went. Don’t miss the shakes and pies too.

Parking?

The parking lot is tight and busy so be cautious getting in and out. There are many stores and restaurants plus a beer store in the plaza which means there’s a lot of traffic. No special view or anything like that here. Just the ice cream that matters, really.

Elgin County

Leaving Port Stanley? These are the two shops that I highly recommend trying. Pick one when you are right at the beach and wandering around after a day spent jumping the waves. Broderick’s is perfect for that and then go and try Shaw’s the next week. You must try both ice cream shops.

Broderick’s

One trillion options to choose from. Okay, so maybe that’s exaggerating. Broderick’s Ice Cream Parlour is across the bridge in Port Stanley, so while the bridge is being repaired this year you will have to leave the main beach by car and park nearby on one of the side streets in order to get the ice cream at Broderick’s. Because social distancing is happening and measures are being taken to manage foot traffic you need to enter through the back door and leave through the front. FOLLOW the signs and listen, if someone out front says go to the back door.

Located at 290 Bridge Street, open since 1984, Broderick’s ice cream shop looks kind of like an Old Time Ice Cream Parlour. You will smell it before you enter. That FRESH waffle cone smell is unmistakable.

What to Try

Anyways, here we had Bubblegum flavour in a cone and also two of us that day tried Creme Brûlée. I can’t say enough about both flavours. My younger daughter was like HEY there are big chunks of bubblegum in this one. So that one gets a thumbs up.

Creme brûlée in a cup was my chosen flavour. EXCELLENT choice, especially for a hot day. The cones were melting so fast that my youngest could barely keep up. However, the ice cream cups contained the flavours and the mess too. Also, see the note above about the waffle cones made right in front of you.

ice-cream-shops-shaws

Parking?

As noted above, this year, you need to go around the bridge and after you leave the beach park on a side street near the tiny downtown shops. It’s been easy to find spots there this year.

Shaw’s

Leaving the beach? Heading back to St. Thomas or London? DO STOP here. You cannot miss Shaw’s sign from the road. So, don’t keep driving. Stop and build in the time to have a scoop or two here. There is a large property and all sorts of grass in front and to the side so on a hot day you can easily sit outside away from everyone else and finish the melting magical flavours without dripping inside the car.

What to Try?

ice-cream-shops-southwestern-ontario-unicorn-toots-in-waffle-cone
Unicorn Toots at Shaw’s

Highly recommend lemon pie. It was scrumptious and tasted like lemon meringue pie in an ice cream cone. My older daughter opted for Unicorn Toots, because of the name and the description was tantalizing too. So creative and tasty. Other notable flavours – Grandma’s Cupboard.

In normal times when a pandemic is not on, there’s a small and cute dine in facility where you can enjoy the air conditioning and ice cream all at once.

Parking?

There’s a huge parking lot. This is a big property off of the main route leading into the beach. You should have NO issues at all finding a spot and even should be able to find a patch of grass to let your kids run around for a few minutes if they need to stretch their legs. We have seen many pups here too.

Did you know that you can buy some of these flavours at local grocery stores? You could buy a tub of several flavours of Shaw’s ice cream before you leave the parking lot of Shaw’s or you can occasionally find these in the area markets and grocery stores. I found Granny’s cupboard ice cream at No Frills this week.

What Makes These Local Ontario Ice Cream Shops Special?

These are not Baskin Robbins or Dairy Queen kinds of stores or chains. These ice cream shops are so much sweeter. The flavours are rich and creative and they taste fresh and homemade every time.

But don’t take my word for it. Go and see for yourself.

Do you have a favourite ice cream shop in London, St. Thomas, Port Stanley area? I’d love to hear more…leave me a comment and I will check it out as soon as possible.

Mom of two beautiful active girls, traveller, fitness junkie, social media consultant, and keeper of the sanity.

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