Eating ice cream is one of my favorite hobbies. If there were a competitive ice cream-eating league (side note: why isn’t there?!) I wouldn’t just be in it, I’d be a first-ballot hall of famer. That is, if I ever retired from the sport. When we’re at Walt Disney World, I eat ice cream at least once per day.
While I prefer some brands of ice cream to others, I’m far from an ice cream snob. I love the artisan shops that sell house-made ice cream with fancy ingredients and all that, but I’ll just as happily throw back a half-gallon of the off-brand stuff from Wal-Mart. Unlike the craft beer scene, ice cream enthusiasts are fairly egalitarian. We’re just happy to have a cone in hand.
At Walt Disney World, this means enjoying high-end places like Ample Hills Creamery, but not being above some Auntie Gravity’s Galactic Goodies action. (Who doesn’t love to slum it with a half pound of whipped cream?!) With that said, not all ice cream at Walt Disney World is equal, and in this post, I’ll take a look at the creme-de-la-glace…
7. Aloha Isle/Sunshine Tree Terrace – These Magic Kingdom Adventureland locations serve two of the most famous snacks in all of Walt Disney World, the Dole Whip and Citrus Swirl. Personally, I’m team Citrus Swirl, as that dessert is actually unique to Walt Disney World, but the Dole Whip is pretty delicious, too.
It might be a controversial opinion, but I don’t think either belong near the top of list of the best ice creams at Walt Disney World. Perhaps it’s just me, but I don’t associate acidity with ice cream, and both of these desserts have that. Don’t get me wrong, they’re delicious and refreshing, but I don’t normally count them towards my daily ice cream quota.
6. Plaza Ice Cream Parlor – Like another location higher up this list, there’s a lot of nostalgia and sentimentality at play here. One of my absolute favorite ways to start a day…or end a day…or relax during the middle of the day…in Magic Kingdom is by ordering a Plaza Ice Cream Sundae and sitting at a table with a view of Cinderella Castle.
My strong preference here is going over to Tomorrowland Terrace and getting a waterside table, but it’s often closed off for dessert party prep. This is one of my favorite ‘stop and smell the roses’ experiences at Walt Disney World. (Similarly, ordering a sundae from Auntie Gravity’s and taking it into Cosmic Ray’s at the end of the night is another great experience.)
5. Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop – A San Francisco institution, Ghirardelli is known primarily for its chocolates. However, the Disney Springs location also offers a number of California-inspired (in name, at least) ice cream sundaes, most of which feature that famed chocolate heavily. While I haven’t tried them all, my favorite is the Crissy Sundae–and you can’t go wrong with any of the sea salt choices, either.
Someday, I want to try the Kitchen Sink-rivaling “Earthquake Sundae” which is eight scoops of ice cream, bananas, whipped cream, chopped almonds, chocolate chips, cherries, and more. It’s designed to feed four, but I think I could tackle it single-handedly. The $40 price tag does give me some pause, though.
4. Beaches & Cream – When is Edy’s ice cream you could buy from the local supermarket something magical? When it’s mixed with a healthy dose of nostalgia, exists in an undeniably fun environment, and calls one of the coolest resorts at Walt Disney World home. I have no delusions about the objective quality of the ice cream at Beaches & Cream. Nevertheless, few dishes at Walt Disney World make me happier than a No Way Jose.
It might just be “ordinary” ice cream, but I love this dessert. Just as importantly, I love the experience of being inside this old timey soda shop, watching the excitement of families receiving the Kitchen Sink, and smelling burgers on the grill. For me, Beaches & Cream is like stepping back in time (in my mind, it’s the place John from Carousel of Progress went to get a cold sarsaparilla) and is flat-out fun.
3. Enzo’s Hideaway – This is a tough one to include. Not because the gelato at Enzo’s Hideaway is anything short of amazing, but because it’s not a dedicated ice cream shop. Once we open this door, we should probably expand this to a top 10 or 37 list and also include places like Sprinkles and specialty dishes like the Beignet Sundae at Port Orleans French Quarter (which we had yesterday, and wow).
In any case, the Amarena Gelati Sundae (crema, chocolate, pistachio, cherries, and whipped cream) at Enzo’s Hideaway is flat-out one of the best desserts I’ve ever had at Walt Disney World. If the other sundaes–and there are several–are anything like it, Enzo’s belongs in the conversation as one of the best ice cream spots at Walt Disney World, even if it’s more of a restaurant and bar. Their gelato is rich, flavorful, and dense, and the gelato quality is far superior to regular ice cream spots at Walt Disney World. Enzo’s Hideaway is an interesting place worth visiting for drinks…and sundaes. An atypical, albeit awesome niche.
2. L’Artisan des Glaces – This ice cream shop tucked away in World Showcase at Epcot is something of a hidden gem. Like the rest of the France pavilion, it’s highly regarded and those who have tried it generally seem to really like or love it. However, in the larger conversation about the best dessert spots at Walt Disney World, it isn’t mentioned as often–certainly not as much as Beaches & Cream.
L’Artisan des Glaces serves 16 flavors of house-made ice cream and sorbet, all of it creamy and flavorful. While scoops of ice cream are the basic option here, there are some interesting creations, such as ice cream macarons, cappuccino, and martinis. There’s also my favorite: the Croque Glacé, which is one scoop of ice cream in a homemade, warm-pressed brioche. This is a next-level ice cream sandwich, and what we’d recommend at L’Artisan des Glaces.
1. Ample Hills Creamery – We used to always walk from Epcot’s International Gateway to Disney’s Hollywood Studios in the name of health. Now, it’s a dangerous proposition, as the siren song of Ample Hills at the BoardWalk beacons us about half the time we make this walk. Resisting, or “behaving” ourselves and splitting an Ooey Gooey Butter Cake Sundae is a herculean feat.
Ample Hill’s ice cream is high-quality, featuring inventive ingredients and boasting flavors that are exceptional. It’s in the same tradition as Ben & Jerry’s, but somehow with even more ambition and better choices. The result is ice cream that’s addictively good, and a place so good we stop at least once (…or three times) every single trip to Walt Disney World.
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What’s your go-to ice cream spot at Walt Disney World? Any favorite ice cream specialties at “regular” restaurants? Are you a Beaches & Cream diehard, or do you think it’s overrated? Do you agree or disagree with my choices on this list? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!