Nothing says “summer” like chilled dairy and in terms of ice cream vendors, Asheville’s got you covered. Indeed, by my estimation Asheville has an unusually high proliferation of ice-creameries for a city of its size. Maybe it’s the tourism. Certainly, ice cream connotes leisure-time and outdoor ambulation—a sundae at the beach for instance. Now Asheville may not have a beach (that I know of) but there are plenty of things in town to do and see. In light of this I’ve attempted to differentiate all creameries mentioned based on what Asheville-exploration opportunities they may be paired with. Happy ice-creaming.
Here’s a question: in what universe is it acceptable to eat ice cream with your hands? Actually, it’s our universe—enter the ice cream sandwich. Sunshine Sammies is a neighborhood-style creamery, focuses on this humble delicacy, wedging homemade ice cream between fresh-baked cookies. Or you could get the ice cream without the cookies, I guess. No judgement. You could even still try to eat it with your hands.
Flavors rotate seasonally, but to give you an idea of what’s in store, Sunshine Sammies’s spring selection includes honey lavender and passionfruit chocolate chip coconut macaroon. Yes, I believe that last one is all one flavor. Talk about a tongue-twister.
As to that Asheville-exploration I mentioned, Sunshine Sammies lies on the way to downtown, and so it’s easy to work this stop into a day of boutique-shopping and local museums. I find though that the most pressing invitation lies just one address up the street, at Lexington Glasswork’s open-door, walk-in studio.
Hours: 2pm-8pm every day except Tuesdays and Wednesdays
Technically “frozen yogurt,” Biltmore Park’s Sweet Escape boasts the kind of self-serve setup that creative types like myself so adore. Chocolate plus lemon plus maraschino cherries plus gummy worms? Mango boba and peanut butter? Lime toffee? At the Sweet Escape, there’s no-one to stop you. And so, the name really fits.
Like downtown Asheville, Biltmore Park hosts upscale retail and plenty of sidewalks. For that reason, perhaps you’ll opt for Sweet Escape’s smoothies. Drinks are far more portable than solid fare. That said, I believe the yogurt here is best enjoyed paired with some lunch at one of Biltmore Park’s many fine restaurants—ranging from barbecue to Caribbean—and a movie at the Regal Cinema.
Hours: 12-8pm daily.
To be frank, I’ve never detected much of a difference between frozen yogurt, custard, and ice cream. Shaved ice, it must be admitted, is its own thing, and therefore has been excluded from this list. That said, I do find that Whit’s offers a certain signature creaminess that helps it stand apart from its fellows. Here one can find shakes and malts, besides your regular cups and cones, and rotating flavors along the lines of waffle caramel crunch and “fluffer nutter.”
Located just a little ways north of downtown, Whit’s lies at the crossroads of a rather eclectic collection of Asheville outings. There is of course, all the aforementioned amusements of downtown. But to the west lies the Botanical Gardens of Asheville and to the east the Grove Park Inn’s very own golf course. That leaves then the north. A short drive in this direction lands you at Asheville Pizza and Brewing, the perfect place to catch homey showings of movies both on and off your regular cinematic schedule. In short, there’s a lot to do and a lot to eat.
Hours: 1-9pm every day but Mondays.
Located in Antler Hill Village on the grounds of Asheville’s famous Biltmore House, it takes no stretch of the imagination to figure out what kind summertime activities this ice-cream venue may be paired with: a walk about Biltmore’s extensive grounds, a visit to the plant-lush conservatory and perhaps even a tour of the house itself.
As to the fare, the Creamery offers small-scale lunches and splendid scoops, including the “winky bar” sundae. Now what on earth is a “winky bar,” you ask? Well, that’s exactly what I thought at first, so fear not. I did some digging. Back in the day, Biltmore owned a dairy bar, whose mascot “Winky” has not been caught on camera to my knowledge and therefore we can only speculate as to his appearance. The dairy bar sold ice-cream bars dipped in chocolate and topped with peanuts and cherries. This delicacy lives on in the creamery’s modern sundae, with its black-cherry base.
History lesson concluded, I’d like to advise that the Creamery often sees long-lines, due to its modest size. It’d be best to situate your visit at an odd time, say 3 or 4pm.
Hours: 10am-7pm daily.
The long and short of it is that no ice-creamery says “Asheville” like the Hop, so far as I’m concerned. Perhaps it’s my fond memories of enjoying their scoops at school events or family get-togethers. Perhaps its their imaginative, memorable flavors. Actually, I think it is the flavors. I’m sure I mentioned it before, but I’ll say it again: nobody else offers strawberry balsamic and sweet beet. Likewise, their beverage options go the extra mile. With traditional floats, hot chocolate floats, and the “Jitterbug”—a milkshake with espresso shots—I think you’ll find that the Hop has something for everyone.
The Hop’s West Asheville location lies across the river from the studios and galleries of the RAD and a short drive north of Carrier Park, a local favorite for riverside walks. For your summertime visit to Asheville, the River Arts District is really a must-see and therefore I imagine you’ll find a way to work the Hop into your schedule.
Hours: 12-11pm daily.
99 S Lexington Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
The Sweet Escape
27 Schenck Pkwy Ste 130, Asheville, NC 28803
Whit's Frozen Custard (North)
565 Merrimon Ave, Asheville, NC 28804
The Creamery at Biltmore
1 Lodge St, Asheville, NC 28803
The Hop (West)
721 Haywood Rd, Asheville, NC 28806