line of ice cream cones and popsicles

When the weather app still displays temperatures starting with the number nine, venturing outdoors can seem less and less worth the effort. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of our favorite central lowa ice cream shops, guaranteed to dazzle your taste buds and nourish your heat-exhausted soul. Check out our associates’ favorite spots (in no particular order) to get an ice cream fix.


Nothing beats a neighborhood walk-up shop for a vanilla chocolate twist cone with an animal cracker stuck in the side. The historical neon sign adds to the overall vintage feel of this iconic Des Moines institution. Snookies caters to everyone in the family, offering free puppy cones to customers who stop by with their furry friends. Plus, if you don’t run into at least one person you know at Snookies, you’d be the first.


Great-Grandma Thelma became famous for a devily delicious snickerdoodle cookie recipe that has since exploded into the booming business of Thelma’s today. With 17 different flavor combinations all consisting of melt-in-your mouth homemade cookies sandwiching ice cream, we owe Grandma Thelma a debt of gratitude for her culinary genius.

Waukee Ice Cream Shoppe

Waukee is not the small town it once was, and it continues to grow every day. However, there is still a place along the downtown triangle where you can escape hot temperatures while experiencing old-fashioned small-town charm. The Waukee Ice Cream Shoppe is a great place to enjoy a waffle cone with a scoop of ice cream, soft serve or unique creations like the Scotcheroo Blitz.

The Outside Scoop

If it was possible to leave our office and follow around this pink truck every day in the summer, we would. With unique homemade flavors and fresh ingredients, this ice cream is a must-try. Catch them in pink trucks around the metro or at one of their storefront locations in Indianola and Ankeny. Learn more about where you can find them on their website.

Starbucks Drive-In in Nevada

As local as it gets. This historic diner may be small, but it packs mighty flavor. Find out their available offerings on their Facebook page (our personal favorites are the Cyclone banana pudding shake and strawberry shortcake sundae). And yes, this Starbucks has been around longer than the famous coffee chain.

Bauder’s Pharmacy

If you haven’t had a peppermint bar from Bauder’s, you haven’t really experienced ice cream. This one-part soda fountain, one-part drugstore is an icon in Des Moines. And if you can’t make it to Ingersoll Avenue to enjoy a sundae on one of their classic bar stools, fear not. You can catch them (and their peppermint bars) at the Iowa State Fair every year.

PJ’s Drive-In in Panora

Located right off the Raccoon River Valley bike trail, this old-fashioned ‘70s diner is sure to replenish your energy with a speciality shake, such as the popular S’mores Galore. Red and white striped seats and teal green walls greet any visitor into a retro past. Find out more information about daily specials and sweet treats on their Facebook page.

Classic Frozen Custard

Can custard be counted in the same category as ice cream? We think so, and we also think this shop is too delicious to leave off the list. Located on the Southside of Des Moines, Classic Frozen Custard is one of the best spots to get a lot of bang for your buck. Generous portions of rich and flavorful custard served at a local walk-up shop. Need we say more?

Granny’s Sweet Freeze Shoppe

This sweet little shop couldn’t be forgotten. With tons of unique flavors, add-ins and options, this homemade ice cream is some of the best. Check out their Facebook page to find out the always-fun flavor of the week, which might include Maple Nut, Black Cherry, Dream Twist, or another delightful choice.

Are we missing your favorite ice cream shop? Let us know in the comments!