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Putting the scream in ice cream
I've got the scoop on sweet treats at Silver Dollar City and other parks
Salisbury Beach has been one of my go-to places since I was a youngster. Located on the New Hampshire border, the Massachusetts haven often has crashing waves that make for great body and boogie board surfing. More importantly, it has an impressive history as a seaside amusement area, including its claim to fame as the place where Dodgem bumper cars debuted. My first ride on a major coaster was aboard the Wildcat at Salisbury Beach.
Sadly, like far too many seaside amusement areas in the U.S., the coasters and other rides are long gone. All that remains in Salisbury is an arcade and a bunch of food joints. The arcade has had an ice cream stand on the main drag for as long as I can remember. It’s more common now to find soft serve flavors beyond the standard vanilla and chocolate, but the pistachio ice cream it offers to this day was a revelation and an only-in-Salisbury treat back when I was a kid. Ditto the refreshing and addictive Creamsicle-like, vanilla and orange soft serve swirl that Wiley’s candy shop has been dishing out for generations at the beach.
As you may have figured out, if there is one thing I love almost as much as parks and attractions, it’s food. (Well, music is way up there too, but I digress.) And when parks and food converge, that’s the sweet spot for me. It doesn’t get much sweeter than the subset of food for which I have a particular passion, ice cream. So in honor of National Ice Cream Day, which is this Sunday, July 16, and National Ice Cream Month, which lasts throughout July (lest you think this is some kind of cynical marketing ploy crafted by Big Dairy, the celebrations of the frozen treats are the result of an actual presidential proclamation), let’s get the scoop on a park that puts a cherry on top of some exceptional scoops.
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With its mouth-watering barbecue, giant skillet concoctions, overflowing buffet, and more, Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri has some of the yummiest eateries in all of parkdom. That extends to its sweet offerings, including Hannah’s Ice Cream Parlor. Sure, you could order vanilla, butter pecan, and other traditional flavors. But if you’re like me, you’re going to go for one of the custom creations inspired by and named for two of the park’s outstanding roller coasters, Time Traveler and Outlaw Run.
The former has a chocolate ice cream base that is accented with marshmallow bonbon cream, chocolate flakes, and chocolate fudge, while the latter features vanilla, sea salt, caramel, and chocolate chunks. Are you salivating yet?
The park, which is themed as a late 19th-century mining town, is a stickler for storytelling, even when it comes to its ice cream. When developing the flavor profile for Outlaw Run, for example, Sam Hedrick, Silver Dollar City’s director of food and beverage, says that he and his team considered the location of the RMC Topper Track coaster. Since it’s found on the outskirts of the town, where it’s untamed, settlers would have to bring their own provisions.
“Caramel was a sweet treat that could travel well in the plains and prairies,” he notes. “Moreover, every wagon would have brought salt to preserve food, so we found that it was a great compliment to the sweet of the ice cream.”
The park’s devotion to theme extends to the making of the ice cream, which is produced in small batches at Hannah’s and on display to guests. The flavors are churned in five-gallon buckets and are made with 14% butterfat content, which is considered “super-premium” in the dairy industry.
“We pack it in ice and rock salt and let it mix for 20 minutes. That’s it. No electric refrigeration,” says Hedrick. “We want to show guests, and especially kids, how ice cream was made in the 1880s and still is today at Silver Dollar City. It’s part science and part magic, but 100% authentic.”
If you can’t decide which flavor to get–and really, why should you?–my advice is to order a large and get a scoop of both Time Traveler and Outlaw Run. You might want to wait until after you’ve braved the inversions on the namesake coasters to indulge in them, however.
Sister park Dollywood, which is located in Tennesee, doesn’t make its own sweet stuff, but it does hand scoop delicious flavors such as Smoky Mountain Fudge at its Showstreet Ice Cream shop. Featuring chocolate ice cream, fudge swirls, and chocolate sandwich cookie pieces, the gooey treat has been temporarily renamed “Big Bear Mountain” in honor of the park’s newest coaster.
Another great choice to celebrate National Ice Cream Month (and Day) is the wonderfully creamy and unique-tasting Butterbeer soft serve at Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour in Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida. The shop also serves wild-sounding, Potter-inspired hard ice cream flavors such as Sticky Toffee Pudding and Earl Grey and Lavender. I always intend to try some of the other choices, but inevitably order the Butterbeer soft serve whenever I visit the park. It’s almost like I’m under a spell.
Do you love ice cream as much as I do? (It’s doubtful.) What are some of your favorite parks for ice cream?