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America's Best Cities for Ice Cream (PHOTOS)

Posted: 07/16/2013 3:13 pm

At East Nashville's Pied Piper Creamery, you can order a scoop of chocolate, vanilla, or, depending on the day, basil tomatillo. Not tempted? Then try the avocado ice cream, infused with lime juice and cracked black pepper.

"We don't do weird ice cream just for the sake of being weird," insists owner Jenny Piper. "But we don't mind an unusual combination -- we want our creations to be delicious first."

That tasty sense of adventure helped Nashville place in the top three for the nation's best ice cream, according to Travel + Leisure readers. In the America's Favorite Cities survey -- where readers rank features of 35 different U.S. metro areas -- Nashville also scored near the top for affordability and live music.

These days, in the other top 20 ice cream cities, it's not hard to find creative flavors like the Pied Piper's: the artisan, locally sourced approach that has transformed regional craft beers and food carts has also worked its way into the ice cream industry -- and into foodies' hearts. Especially perhaps in July (also known as National Ice Cream Month), you can find an ever-changing array of ice cream out there, from goat-cheese-and-cashew-caramel in Chicago to chocolate smoked sea salt or jalapeño in San Francisco.

--Katrina Brown Hunt

More from Travel + Leisure:
World's Strangest Ice Cream
Best Desserts Around the World
America's Best Ice Cream Shops
America's Snobbiest Cities
Take the T+L 2013 America's Favorite Cities Survey!

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  • No. 1 Savannah, GA

    <a href="http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/americas-most-romantic-restaurants/9" title="America's Best Cities for Ice Cream" target="_hplink">See More of America's Best Cities for Ice Cream</a><br><br> The ice cream champion also won the survey for its <a href="http://www.travelandleisure.com/americas-favorite-cities/2012/category/quality-of-life-and-visitor-experience/architecture-cool-buildings" target="_hplink">lovely buildings</a>, <a href="http://www.travelandleisure.com/americas-favorite-cities/2012/category/best-times-to-visit/fall" target="_hplink">fall weather</a>, and <a href="http://www.travelandleisure.com/americas-favorite-cities/2012/category/quality-of-life-and-visitor-experience/peace-and-quiet" target="_hplink">quaint atmosphere</a>, which includes a flair for old-school ice cream. Leopold’s is a classic parlor that dates back to 1919 and makes single-batch flavors such as old-style tutti-frutti and more newfangled options such as Guinness and Japanese cherry blossom. During summer, another hot spot is the famous Sugar Shack on Tybee Island, a longtime family-owned operation with floats, frosties, and classic flavors such as piña colada and banana pudding. <br><br><em>Photo: dbimages / Alamy</em>

  • No. 2 Providence, RI

    <a href="http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/americas-most-romantic-restaurants/9" title="America's Best Cities for Ice Cream" target="_hplink">See More of America's Best Cities for Ice Cream</a><br><br> Providence is the overall No. 1 <a href="http://www.travelandleisure.com/americas-favorite-cities/2012/category/food-drink-restaurants" target="_hplink">eating-and-drinking city</a>, according to readers. Foodies will love the <em>macaron</em> ice cream sandwiches at Ellie’s Bakery, an offshoot of renowned Gracie’s, while <a href="http://www.travelandleisure.com/americas-favorite-cities/2012/category/food-drink-restaurants" target="_hplink">coffee lovers</a> will appreciate the ice cream (coffee bean, coffee Oreo, coffee crunch) at Three Sisters. To try the city’s highly ranked <a href="http://www.travelandleisure.com/americas-favorite-cities/2012/category/food-drink-restaurants/street-food-food-trucks" target="_hplink">street food</a>, check out PVD Pops, a bicycle-operated pushcart selling pudding pops in flavors such as pumpkin chocolate chip and pineapple basil. <br><br><em>Photo: iStock</em>

  • No. 3 Nashville

    <a href="http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/americas-most-romantic-restaurants/9" title="America's Best Cities for Ice Cream" target="_hplink">See More of America's Best Cities for Ice Cream</a><br><br> Aside from <a href="http://www.travelandleisure.com/americas-favorite-cities/2012/category/nightlife/music-scene" target="_hplink">open-mic nights</a>, an ice cream parlor might be the finest way to mingle with Music City’s <a href="http://www.travelandleisure.com/americas-favorite-cities/2012/category/people/local-accent" target="_hplink">twangy</a> locals, who ranked as the <a href="http://www.travelandleisure.com/americas-favorite-cities/2012/category/people/friendly" target="_hplink">friendliest</a> in the nation. East Nashville has the city’s hipsters, plenty of <a href="http://www.travelandleisure.com/americas-favorite-cities/2012/category/food-drink-restaurants/microbrew-beer" target="_hplink">microbrews</a>, and the most cutting edge ice cream: check out Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams—with flavors such as whiskey pecan—and the Pied Piper, which pulls off both a pear sorbet with a Cabernet reduction and the Lady Goo-Goo, a chocolate ice cream blended with marshmallows and chopped, homegrown Goo Goo Clusters. <br><br><em>Photo: Brian Jannsen / Alamy</em>

  • No. 4 San Francisco

    <a href="http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/americas-most-romantic-restaurants/9" title="America's Best Cities for Ice Cream" target="_hplink">See More of America's Best Cities for Ice Cream</a><br><br> While the Bay Area struck readers as being fairly <a href="http://www.travelandleisure.com/americas-favorite-cities/2012/category/quality-of-life-and-visitor-experience/affordability" target="_hplink">expensive</a>, gourmet ice cream makes for a simple luxury. At Bi-Rite Creamery and Bakeshop in the Mission District, one side of the shop makes the brownies, cookies, and marshmallows that go into ice cream like the ricanelas (cinnamon with snickerdoodles). Nearby, Humphry Slocombe on Harrison Street touts foodie-forward flavors such as chocolate smoked sea salt, jalapeño, and a Jesus Juice sorbet. <br><br><em>Photo: iStock</em>

  • No. 5 San Diego

    <a href="http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/americas-most-romantic-restaurants/9" title="America's Best Cities for Ice Cream" target="_hplink">See More of America's Best Cities for Ice Cream</a><br><br> Southern California may be awash with self-serve frozen yogurt shops, but you can also find cool alternatives in San Diego’s Normal Heights neighborhood: Mariposa Ice Cream, run by a fourth-generation dairy farmer, offers elegant flavors such as white chocolate raspberry ripple and Mexican chocolate, while at Viva Pops, you can get an updated version of Mexican paletas—popsicles in flavors such as cucumber chili, lavender lemonade, and pear vanilla rose. Certainly, San Diego boasts the perfect conditions for ice cream enthusiasts: it ranked second in the survey for <a href="http://www.travelandleisure.com/americas-favorite-cities/2012/category/quality-of-life-and-visitor-experience/weather" target="_hplink">weather</a> and No. 1 for the <a href="http://www.travelandleisure.com/americas-favorite-cities/2012/category/best-times-to-visit/4th-of-july" target="_hplink">4th of July</a>. <br><br><em>Photo: iStock</em>

  • No. 6 Portland, ME

    <a href="http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/americas-most-romantic-restaurants/9" title="America's Best Cities for Ice Cream" target="_hplink">See More of America's Best Cities for Ice Cream</a><br><br> In this city that hits its peak in the <a href="http://www.travelandleisure.com/americas-favorite-cities/2012/category/best-times-to-visit/summer" target="_hplink">summertime</a>, ice cream ranked in the survey right between two other staples: <a href="http://www.travelandleisure.com/americas-favorite-cities/2012/category/food-drink-restaurants/microbrew-beer" target="_hplink">beer</a> and <a href="http://www.travelandleisure.com/americas-favorite-cities/2012/category/food-drink-restaurants/coffee" target="_hplink">coffee</a>. In the Old Port, Captain Sam’s Ice Cream employs local ingredients, such as Maine blueberries, and abstract flavor names (a rocky road–like flavor is dubbed One Time at Band Camp). On Fore Street, two gelato shops pay a microbrewery-level attention to detail: the Gelato Fiasco boasts small-batch flavors (and no corn syrup), while Gorgeous Gelato uses only Maine milk and organic cane sugar. <br><br><em>Photo: Courtesy of Greater Portland Convention & Visitors Bureau</em>

  • No. 7 Austin, TX

    <a href="http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/americas-most-romantic-restaurants/9" title="America's Best Cities for Ice Cream" target="_hplink">See More of America's Best Cities for Ice Cream</a><br><br> Amy’s—a pioneer of mixed-in-flavor ice cream shops—is still an institution in this city that is loyal to its local chains. But the <a href="http://www.travelandleisure.com/americas-favorite-cities/2012/category/people/tech-savvy" target="_hplink">techie denizens</a> of the Texas capital have a high threshold for edgy ice cream: Lick Ice Creams on South Lamar offers locally sourced creams that go into flavors like honeyed peaches with rosemary, cilantro lime, and Mexican marigold. You might also notice plenty of grown-ups ordering kid-size servings: the locals rank near the top of the survey for <a href="http://www.travelandleisure.com/americas-favorite-cities/2012/category/people/athletic-active" target="_hplink">staying trim</a>. <br><br><em>Photo: iStock</em>

 

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