It's cool and sweet and creamy and satisfying. And in Orlando, lucky for us, it's also pervasive. Are you a member of the Cult of Dole Whip? This fair city is its arguable Mecca, a place to which followers make regular pilgrimage to partake of this rare, fruity delight. So, too, do Potter fans clamor, because Diagon Alley is the only place in the world witches and wizards (and muggles, too, of course) can experience Universal's creamy Butterbeer soft serve at the moment. Looking for something a little more homespun? We've got those, too. College Park's Soda Fountain will be right up your alley with its egg creams and ice cream floats while over in the Audubon Park Garden District, beloved food truck Kelly's Homemade Ice Cream has put down brick-and-mortar roots. Pop into its spacious digs for a cone or a cup (or even a quart for your freezer) and stay awhile. They have games on-hand for the kiddies. Down in Kissimmee, you can add bounce houses to that formula, along with something of a show. Their downtown shop, Abracadabra Ice Cream Factory, makes custom servings using liquid nitrogen. And for those of you with little tolerance for lactose, several of our listed venues offer delightful dairy-free options. You won't miss it in the least.
Florean Fortescue's Ice-Cream Parlour
Until a Harry Potter-themed park opens elsewhere – or you truly master the art of spell-casting – Orlando's Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the only place you'll find creamy, dreamy Butterbeer ice cream, a soft serve so sumptuous and spellbinding, it offers wizards and witches a cool respite from Florida's oft unforgiving heat. Florean Fortescue's is located in Diagon Alley (at Universal Studios) and serves a host of other chilly treats – hard-packed ice cream, other soft serve flavors along with cakes, pastries, refreshments and other enticements. But come on, it's the Wizarding World! You're going to have to try the Butterbeer.... (407-363-8000)
Five Fx Ice Cream & Taiyaki
It's a five-step process to ice cream at Five Fx: choose your size, your flavor, your milk (soy and almond are options, vegans!), your toppings and your presentation (cup, waffle cup, waffle cone) � and you get a show in between. Ice cream scientists pour your above choices into a metal plate where its temp is lowered to below freezing. With the steady scrape and push of the spatula, your custom creation comes alive. What's more, Five Fx offers an array of traditional Asian treats, as well. Korean-style patbingsu and artful Japanese taiyaki are available, the latter with the standard azuki-bean filling or, if you're feeling creative, go wild with cream cheese and fruit, peanut butter and more. (407-930-7181)
Abracadabra Ice Cream Factory
Enjoy a good dinner (or dessert) show? Stand back, because the folks at Abracadabra Ice Cream Factory are going to try SCIENCE (though to be fair to their name, it does seem a bit like magic)! Using liquid nitrogen, staffers at this downtown Kissimmee shop create your ice cream custom right before your eyes. Choose from among a long list of flavors and mix-ins and marvel at the the mad-scientist's-laboratory theatrics. Of course, if your kids are more up for pre-ice cream athletics, there's always the bounce houses out back. Abracadabra also serves cupcakes and, on the weekends, pizza, as well. (407-201-2509)
Set amid swirling colors to match its frozen desserts, Twisted Bliss serves just that in the form of cool ices, gelatis, floats and more, right in the center of the action in Ivanhoe Village. Its charming picket-fence patio hosts occasional live musicians, bolstering its role as neighborhood oasis – a place to cool off after a bout of shopping or follow up lunch with something sweet. Grab a coffee or even a panini if you're not in the mood for a key lime shake (as if that ever happens) and immerse yourself under a rainbow of hippie-chic ambiance. Don't forget the cereal topping! ((407) 484-2653)
L'Artisan des Glaces
Everyone who visits France returns with tales of hidden gems found tucked into cobbled alleys. "Oh, they made the best this..." "the most amazing that...." Disney, in its infinite wisdom, has reproduced this facet of the Old World European experience via L'Artisans des Glaces, tucked (but of course!) into the France Pavilion in the Epcot World Showcase. Creamy flavors – traditional and exotic – tempt guests' tastebuds and the massive waffle cones make for gorgeous, if caloric, photo-ops. Would you prefer something a bit more exotic? Try the Croque Glace and choose any flavor pressed into heavenly warm brioche with chocolate or raspberry sauce. ((407) 824-4321)
All the colors of the rainbow and about a zillion others are in store on a visit to Rainbow Sno-Cones which has been cooling off Orlando locals since 1994. Impressed? Wait 'til you taste them. With a texture unparalleled by – well, just about anything if you ask devoted regulars – these hand-shaved ice treats are fluffy, sweetened to taste and come in an array of flavors so dizzying, you may want to check out the list on its Facebook page before heading over. Flavors include all those you'd expect and a bunch you might not, including hurricane, margarita, root beer and the interestingly named Tiger's Blood (a sweet combination of coconut and strawberry) as well as some dairy-laden varieties – coconut cream, cappuccino and wedding cake, for example – which contain evaporated milk. ((407) 896-9105)
Dole Whip isn't just a frozen dessert. This cool, tropical confection has practically inspired a cult. Folks make pilgrimages to the handful of places in the world where you can get it. Most – Aloha Isle at Magic Kingdom and the Animal Kingdom Tamu Tamu outpost where you can get your whip spiked with rum, for example – require admission fees before you get near the soft-serve machine. At Pineapple Lanai, however, you can enjoy your Dole Whip amid the Hawaiian ambiance of Disney's Polynesian Resort, no high-priced ticket required! Save your money. Feed your addiction. And definitely go for the float. (407-824-2000)
The Pop Parlour
Jettison the fro-yo and skip the butterfat in the ice cream, the Pop Parlour offers a healthier, lighter alternative: gourmet popsicles made from the freshest ingredients. In fact, you might not always find your favorite unless its contents are in season. Creative flavors like avocado coconut, lemon cucumber mint and strawberry basil sit side-by-side with tamer classics like watermelon, canteloupe and strawberry, each one a refreshing respite from the Orlando heat. Take yours to go and amble just a few steps to Lake Eola and enjoy your treat in the shade of the live oaks as you watch the resident swans glide. Nearly all their pops are vegan and gluten free. ((321) 348-7677)
The Soda Fountain
There is no egg in an egg cream. And every city in America should have a place where kids should learn this. In Orlando, we recommend the Soda Fountain, a great little College Park shop where fizzy chocolate milk goes by its traditional moniker and everything else – floats, milk shakes, sundaes and more – will remind grandma of when a little pocket change was still enough to buy a scoop. It's not a pharmacy-counter soda shop, but the essence of its forefathers is there. Eclectic furnishings and friendly staffers add to the shop-local vibe of the place, as does the neighborhood itself. (407-540-1006)
Kelly's Homemade Ice Cream
Kelly's Homemade first rolled into Orlando's heart as a food truck. In fact, they're still rolling all over town. But its recent move to brick-and-mortar in the still-growing Audubon Park Garden District means you no longer have to pull up a curb or bring your own lawn chair to enjoy the creamy goodness of their wares. Ice cream, Italian ices and sorbets – all made in-house – make for tough choices at the counter, so go ahead and ask for a little sample. They don't mind. Flavors like chocolate fluffer-nutter and cake batter n' sprinkles appeal to the mix-in set while creamy-plain goodies satisfy the traditionalist's need to keep their ice cream orderly. (321-226-8685)
About A.D. Thompson
A.D. Thompson has spent more than 20 years as a professional writer and roughly 15 as a Floridian. The words, she has found, come easier with bare feet and rum.
A roller coaster enthusiast, A.D. readily admits there is fun to be had amid the madness of the theme parks, but has found there is magic, as well, in the outer-lying reaches of Mickey’s long shadow. She is delighted to share with you the spoils of her adopted city.
Visit her colorful compendium at www.amydrewthompson.com.
Read more about A.D. Thompson here.
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