Top Picks for the Best Ice Cream in Fort Collins, Colorado


While known for its craft beer scene and natural beauty, Fort Collins also boasts a thriving ice cream and frozen treats culture with delightful surprises around every corner. From artisanal gelato to hand-crafted, small-batch ice cream, Fort Collins offers a delightful array of frozen delights perfect for cooling off on a hot summer day or warming the soul during the winter months.


  • Fort Collins has an extensive ice cream scene ranging from artisanal gelato to handcrafted small-batch ice cream
  • Notable ice cream spots include The Cupboard, Walrus Ice Cream, and Little Man Ice Cream
  • Seasonal flavors, family-friendly parlors, innovative techniques, and special events all contribute to the one-of-a-kind ice cream experiences
  • The broader dairy and culinary scene with local ingredients and delights like gelato complement the iconic ice cream offerings

Overview of Key Ice Cream Destinations in Fort Collins

Fort Collins boasts a variety of iconic ice cream shops and creameries that have become beloved community staples. From the whimsical flavors at Walrus Ice Cream to the classic malts at The Cupboard, Fort Collins offers delightful frozen treats for all tastes.

The Cupboard first opened its doors in Fort Collins in 1947 and continues serving classic ice cream treats made from scratch using local dairy. Their old-fashioned malts and sundaes transport you back in time with pure, creamy deliciousness.

For more adventurous palates, Walrus Ice Cream whips up artisanal small-batch ice cream and sorbet with an ever-changing array of creative flavors. Their salted butterscotch and honey lemon ginger are local favorites.

Little Man Ice Cream at the historic Old Town Square delights families with handmade ice cream and over-the-top sundaes. The “Kitchen Sink” sundae with bananas, brownies, and cherries is a must-try. Their outdoor patio with games makes it perfect for summer evenings.

Immersing in Local Culture Through Ice Cream

Beyond the iconic parlors themselves, the local culture surrounding ice cream in Fort Collins enhances the entire ice cream experience. Local ingredients, community events, and interactions with shop owners all provide delightful glimpses into what makes the city so special.

Many ice cream makers in Fort Collins source dairy and other ingredients from local Colorado farms. Walrus Ice Cream collaborates with farms to create one-of-a-kind flavors highlighting seasonal produce like sweet corn and Rocky Ford cantaloupe. The Cupboard still handcrafts malts using milk from a local fourth-generation dairy farm.

Ice cream socials in Old Town Square, festivals celebrating all things frozen treats, and even an annual “ice cream tour” allow visitors to embrace the community spirit while indulging in delightful desserts. These events showcase local bands and artisans amid old-fashioned lawn games, ice cream eating contests, and boundless frozen fun.

Visiting the ice cream parlors themselves provides opportunities to engage with passionate shop owners dedicated to the craft. Hearing their stories, watching ice cream being handmade, and talking about flavor innovation gives context to why the Fort Collins ice cream scene is so extraordinary.

The Art and Craft Behind Artisanal Ice Cream

Beyond serving dessert, many ice cream shops in Fort Collins have mastered the art and craft of ice cream making. Their creativity, small-batch production methods, and unique flavor pairings produce one-of-a-kind frozen delights that tantalize the tastebuds.

The secret behind the best ice cream is using quality ingredients and the perfect balance of butterfat, air, and temperature during production. Locally sourced cream and milk from grass-fed cows create an unparalleled creamy base. Many Fort Collins shops still handcraft ice cream in small batches, attending to each detail and allowing limitless creativity for dazzling flavors.

From traditional techniques like cold-stone churning to molecular gastronomy with liquid nitrogen, Fort Collins ice cream makers are constantly innovating. Walrus Ice Cream’s olive oil ice cream and The Cupboard’s malted milkshake ice cream demonstrate how quality ingredients shine when crafted with care. Creative flavors like honey chamomile, lemon lavender, and spiced Mexican hot chocolate further showcase the artistry involved.

Pairing these artisanal frozen creations with local ingredients also opens up delightful flavor adventures. Walrus teams up with local chocolatiers, coffee roasters, breweries, and beekeepers to create specialty flavors that encapsulate the region’s tastes. Sweet corn ice cream with blackberry swirl, beer, and pretzels ice cream, and honey vanilla with candied pecans represent just a sample of what Fort Collins has to offer those with adventurous palates.

The Allure of Seasonal Ice Cream Offerings

The vibrant shift of seasons in Fort Collins inspires ice cream makers to constantly reinvent their menus to highlight seasonal ingredients and flavors. Limited edition offerings provide new experiences for returning customers while also showcasing local agriculture.

As apricots, peaches, and berries flourish in the summer months, ice cream specials capture their bright sweetness through flavors like peach lavender and Rocky Ford cantaloupe sorbet. Seasonal sorbets cool off patrons during the hot summer months with choices like cucumber lime mint or mango chili lime. Many shops also offer summer-inspired novelties like fruit pops, ice cream sandwiches featuring sun-ripened peach ice cream, or even boozy ice cream for adults featuring local beers and spirits.

For the winter months, ice cream becomes a way to warm both body and soul. Richer flavors like gingerbread, sugar plum, and peppermint stick embrace the holiday spirit. Spiced Mexican hot chocolate ice cream with cinnamon and cayenne pepper warms you from the inside out. Hearty flavors like chocolate cherry cordial, sweet potato marshmallow, and maple walnut lend comfort during the colder months.

Limited edition flavors also reflect Fort Collins’ local culture and seasonal happenings. When the Colorado State University Rams make a bowl game, shops showcase green and gold-themed ice cream. During popular community events like the Bohemian Nights Music Festival, unique concert-inspired flavors capture the community camaraderie.

Family-Friendly Spots for Making Sweet Memories

Many ice cream establishments around Fort Collins cater to families and kids by offering vibrant colors, sweet flavors, and interactive experiences. These family-friendly spots promise lasting memories along with delicious frozen treats.

Little Man Ice Cream’s Old Town location delights families with its whimsical outdoor eating area featuring yard games and activities. Kids can climb on the 35-foot ice cream cone jungle gym while parents relax under the flower-filled trellis. Their handmade ice cream, specially formulated to be less sweet for children’s palates, comes in both classic and adventurous flavors.

Other parlors, like Walrus Ice Cream, offer samples of their uniquely flavored ice creams so kids can discover new taste adventures. Their rotating selection of flavors, with names like “Yeti Foot” and “Abominable Snowcone,” makes choosing part of the fun. Kids also love customizing their own sundaes with a variety of toppings and treats at shops like The Cupboard.

Many ice cream outlets also host special kids’ events like ice cream socials with lawn games, workshops teaching the science behind ice cream making, and even ice cream eating contests sure to bring out smiles. Kids can also engage with local dairy farms through farm tours and hands-on interactions with cows. These immersive experiences help kids appreciate the story behind their sweet treats.

Signature Events Showcasing Frozen Fun

Throughout the year, Fort Collins celebrates its love of all things frozen through a series of events aimed at bringing the community together over ice cream. Festivals, tours, and tastings draw enthusiasts from around the state to embrace the culture surrounding this iconic dessert.

The Downtown Fort Collins Ice Cream Festival brings families downtown to explore ice cream offerings from shops across Northern Colorado. Alongside the sweet offerings, attendees enjoy live music, children’s activities, and even an adult ice cream eating contest sure to draw crowds.

For those eager to explore the city’s array of ice cream shops, the Historic Fort Collins Ice Cream Tour gives participants passes for discounts and samples at beloved parlors and creameries. The event encourages patrons to wander the area, trying limited-edition flavors while learning about the history of ice cream in Fort Collins.

Ice cream tastings hosted by shops like Walrus Ice Cream and Little Man Ice Cream allow enthusiasts to experience their artisanal frozen creations through carefully curated flights. These events often support local non-profits while bringing the community together over their shared love of ice cream.

Broader Dairy Delights: Gelato, Frozen Yogurt, and More

While traditional ice cream may have put Fort Collins on the map, the city’s frozen landscape extends far beyond classic scoops and sundaes. Gelaterias, frozen yogurt shops, and even unique twists like nitro ice cream add to the variety of dairy delights perfect for any palate.

For those eager to explore new taste adventures, gelato offers a delightful alternative to traditional ice cream. Made with less fat and churned slower, gelato’s denser consistency and more intense flavors create a luxurious treat. Top shops like Fustini’s Gelato craft flavors like whiskey hazelnut, Mexican chocolate, and even savory varieties using local ingredients.

Frozen yogurt shops like Menchies let patrons customize sweet or tart frozen yogurt with a plethora of toppings, from fresh fruit to candy pieces. Their rotating selection of flavors, like cake batter and cookies and cream, make fro-yo an addicting alternative. Yogurtini offers novelties like Dole Whip, parfaits, and smoothies for a lighter take on frozen fun.

For a modern twist, nitrogen ice cream shops like Sub Zero Nitrogen Ice Cream use liquid nitrogen to freeze customized ice cream right before your eyes. Their theatrical approach lets customers select a base along with mix-in toppings and then watch as staff use science to transform the ingredients into frozen deliciousness.

Culinary Innovation Through Ice Cream

Constant creativity and innovation in developing new ice cream flavors, techniques, and experiences fuel the vibrant frozen landscape in Fort Collins. Local chefs and artisans are constantly pushing boundaries to shape the dessert’s future.

Molecular gastronomy approaches that use science to transform textures, temperatures, and forms have opened up new possibilities for ice cream innovation. Techniques like flash-freezing with liquid nitrogen or using alginate spheres to encapsulate flavors allow ice cream makers to expand beyond classic conceptions of what ice cream can be.

Local spirits, craft beers, and even CBD and hemp ingredients are also finding their way into ice cream. Little Man Ice Cream partners with breweries like New Belgium to create flavors like Salted Caramel Stout using local beer. Their Boozy Shakes feature grown-up milkshakes spiked with vodka or bourbon for 21+ patrons. These novel pairings expand ice cream’s versatility as a culinary medium.

Alongside novel techniques and ingredients, shops are also innovating by offering memorable ice cream experiences. Made-to-order liquid nitrogen ice cream, over-the-top ice cream sandwiches, hand-rolled ice cream, and even DIY ice cream classes all provide interactive adventures beyond just a scoop in a cone.


What is the most popular ice cream flavor in Fort Collins?

Sweet Cream is a customer favorite at many classic ice cream parlors in Fort Collins. The Cupboard’s sweet cream ice cream, made from scratch with milk from local dairies, frequently tops the charts. At artisanal shops like Walrus, the Tahitian Vanilla often emerges as the most popular despite constant flavor rotation.

Where can I find vegan or dairy-free ice cream in Fort Collins?

Many shops like Walrus Ice Cream offer dairy-free sorbet as well as coconut or almond milk-based ice creams for vegan diners. Sweet Cow Ice Creamery has an entire dairy-free menu with flavors like Snickerdoodle and chocolate perfection made from a coconut milk base. Noosa Yoghurt also offers dairy-free fruit sorbets and coconut milk frozen yogurts.

What is the coldest month in Fort Collins for ice cream?

January is typically the coldest month in Fort Collins, with average highs around 40°F and average lows around 15°F. While ice cream may sound less appealing mid-winter, shops tempt customers with heartier flavors and indoor seating. The Cupboard also serves up quintessential hot fudge sundaes perfect for the cold weather.

Does Fort Collins have any ice cream food trucks?

Sweet Cow Ice Creamery operates an ice cream truck serving up their dairy and vegan frozen treats at events around Fort Collins. Their truck appearance schedule is posted on their website and social media pages. Fort Collins also hosts visiting ice cream trucks during popular community events.

Are there any ice cream-making classes in Fort Collins?

Several shops like The Cupboard and Walrus Ice Cream periodically offer hands-on ice cream-making classes for kids and adults. These classes cover topics like ingredient selection, proper churning techniques, developing balanced flavors, and experimenting with novel ingredients like local beer or spirits. They often end with each participant leaving with a pint of their handcrafted creation.


About the author

Ransom Patterson

My expertise in Colorado life extends beyond just residing here; it’s also about living actively within the community. I spend my time cycling through Denver’s trails, experimenting with local cuisines, and immersing myself in the local music scene. These activities give me a unique perspective on the cultural and outdoor offerings of Colorado. This hands-on approach allows me to provide insider tips and personal recommendations that resonate with both locals and visitors alike.