America’s 8 favorite ice cream shops — and the hottest new chain

Sarah Conlisk - Jul 3, 2024

It’s no secret, we all scream for ice cream. But where do we scream the loudest — and for what, exactly? To help you make the most of your summer, we dug into Lyft rideshare data to find America’s favorite ice cream spots — national juggernauts, up-and-coming specialty shops, and local favorites.

Most popular ice cream brand: Culver’s

No surprise, the most popular ice cream stores are all major chains. Culver’s, a Midwestern-based frozen-custard chain, draws over 20% of all ice cream–seeking riders. Dairy Queen, which has been serving up soft-serve ice cream for more than eight decades, follows close behind. Together, they draw more than three times as many visitors as the next most-popular chain, Baskin-Robbins.

The figure shows the most visited ice cream places, as a share of all rides to ice cream places, from June 2023 to June 2024

Most popular destination, by state

Culver’s and Dairy Queen are the most popular spots in 36 states. But other states are more loyal to home-grown shops: Newport Creamery in Rhode Island (in the Ocean State since 1928), Friendly’s in Massachusetts (1935), Carvel in New York (1929), Braum’s in Oklahoma (1968), Moo’s Gourmet Ice Cream in Wyoming (1989), and Salt & Straw in Oregon (2011 — surprisingly, the spot is also #1 in California too). 

Vermonters get a special shout-out — they flock to ice cream shops more than three times as frequently as the average American. And 80% of those rides are to hometown favorite Ben & Jerry’s. 

The figure shows the top-visited ice cream places in each state, from June 2023 to June 2024

Fastest-growing brand: Van Leeuwen

The ice cream landscape is always changing. Here are the spots that saw the biggest growth in Lyft rides last year: 

The figure shows the ice cream places with the biggest growth in rides from June 2022 to June 2023 and June 2023 to June 2024

And the winner is … Van Leeuwen, a made-from-scratch ice cream chain featuring smooth and sophisticated flavors like honeycomb and Earl Grey.

Van Leeuwen is a relatively new brand it began as a food truck in 2008 — and has recently expanded, launching 17 new stores in 2023 alone. But the secret behind its rise could be its butterfat content. At 18% butterfat, Van Leeuwen ice cream is substantially richer than other ice creams, even those not known for skimping. 

The figure shows the ice cream places with the biggest growth in rides from June 2022 to June 2023 and June 2023 to June 2024, by the percentage butterfat content of ice cream. Source: Insider Monkey

Local Favorites

National chains are great, but there’s nothing better than stumbling upon a scoop shop that only locals know about. Here are six state-specific spots that are particularly popular among Lyft riders. 

  1. Tricycle Ice Cream (Providence, RI) — Tricycle brings novel flavors (think Ube and Horchata) to the classic ice cream sandwich.

  2. Kopp's Frozen Custard (Milwaukee, WI) — A Milwaukee favorite since the 1950s, Kopp’s keeps things interesting by offering a special flavor of the day, updated daily on the Flavor Alerts app.

  3. Azucar Ice Cream (Miami, FL) — Azucar ice cream provides a “farm to cone” experience: Ingredients for flavors like guava are sourced from South Florida farmer’s markets. 

  4. Blank Slate Creamery (Ann Arbor, MI) — When family-owned Blank Slate Creamery first opened, it sold out of ice cream in three days and was closed for a week to produce more.

  5. Fifty Licks (Portland, OR) — Offering flavors such as “Vanilla AF” and maintaining a vibrant Instagram page, Fifty Licks isn’t just a scoop shop — it’s a vibe.

  6. Golden Cow Creamery (Charlotte, NC) — Golden Cow touts its “stubborn” commitment to its three-day production process and highest-quality ingredients.