A self-guided tour of Lower Manhattan’s ice cream shops

During the dog days of summer in NYC, it feels like there’s a new ice cream shop opening every weekend, and they all have a gimmick: They roll their ice cream, they shave their ice cream, they serve their ice cream with marshmallows or gold flakes or potato chips. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, and you can let that feeling drive you to the bodega for a classic pint of Ben & Jerry’s – or you can dive right into the world of New York’s boutique ice cream shops.

When Emmie and I realized our list of places to try was growing exponentially, we decided that the only way to make a dent was to visit more than one at a time. So on Sunday, we put on our loosest clothing, feasted on carbs in preparation (it soaks up the dairy, probably) and ventured out in the rain to five of the trendiest, most Instagram-able ice cream spots in Lower Manhattan. Here’s what we discovered.

Magnum bar at Magnum Store in Soho, New York City

Magnum NYC Store

In this beautiful space – it’s seriously so bright and classy – you can customize your own Magnum bar. For only $7, you get a chocolate or vanilla bar dipped in chocolate (dark, milk or white), sprinkled with three toppings and drizzled with more chocolate. And then you can blast it on social media using the decorated light boxes that are everywhere you turn. The Magnum Store knows what the people want.

I opted for a vanilla ice cream bar dipped in milk chocolate, covered in mint chocolate chips, mini marshmallows and gold flakes, and drizzled with white chocolate. In case you were wondering.

Strawberry balsamic ice cream at Morgenstern's, New York City

Morgenstern’s

Our next stop was perhaps our most traditional of the day. Rather than crazy concoctions and presentation, Morgenstern’s is known for their adventurous flavors. I had the strawberry balsamic (strawberry is my favorite flavor, but I knew I had to branch out a bit here) and Emmie had green tea pistachio – both of which we highly recommend!

Mango ice cream at 10Below, Lower East Side, New York CityMango ice cream at 10Below, Lower East Side, New York City

10Below (Lower East Side location)

If you’ve been on Instagram in the past few months, you know 10Below. Here, cream and toppings are transformed into ice cream before your very eyes, and then rolled and placed into cups, just waiting to be Instagrammed. It was fascinating to watch the employee beat nothing but cream, mango chunks and strawberries into what became a creamy and delicious treat. I can speak highly of the mango flavor, and Emmie loved the Oreos variety, although another friend mentioned she wasn’t a fan of the Oreos when she visited. This place is a MUST if novelty is at all important to you when picking an ice cream spot.

Shaved cream at Snowdays, East Village, New York City

Snowdays (East Village location)

Snowdays specializes in “shaved cream,” which as far as I can tell, is ice cream with the texture of shaved ice. The portions here are HUGE, so Emmie and I decided to split a regular (small isn’t an option!) We opted for NY cheesecake flavor with rainbow sprinkles and blueberries (because it seemed like a good time to start caring about our health). The shaved cream was delicious, but the absolute highlight for both of us was the spoons: They change color when they’re cold!

Soft serve and friends at Chloe's, Union Square, New York City

Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit Co.

I admit, this was a nostalgic choice for us rather than an adventurous one: Emmie and I met here in July 2014! This whole day was a celebration of our friendship and the shared love of frozen treats that brought us together. Chloe’s is one of my absolute favorite places, bias aside: It’s delicious AND healthy! I ended our adventure with strawberry soft serve – no toppings, because my stomach was DONE – and Emmie had mango with kiwis. Wonderful, as always.

Some notes:

  • This ended up being an excellent order to go in: Not only is it a relatively sensible walk (straight east, then straight north), but the ice cream really goes from heavy and extravagant to simple and light.
  • Sunday started out as a rainy day, so we got lucky and didn’t have to fight crowds. Some of these places – particularly Magnum and 10Below – are notorious for lines that wind around their blocks. We didn’t wait more than five minutes anywhere.
  • Eating ice cream all day makes one crave salt. We ended up at Friterie in the East Village shoving fries into our mouths, in between 10Below and Snowdays. Don’t judge.
  • We really, truly loved all of these spots! For more dessert and NYC recommendations, check out my delightful guide to New York City.

What’s your favorite ice cream spot in New York City?

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