What region of the country consumes the most ice cream per capita on an annual basis? The Northeast is at or near the top of most lists. So it’s not surprising that in recent years ice cream stands have popped up all over the Merrimack Valley like dandelions in a vacant lot.
How do you attract more warm-weather customers, then, when you can’t swing a beach towel over your head without hitting a dozen or more places offering Moose Tracks, chocolate chip and maple walnut? The easy answer: offer more than just sundaes, banana splits and orange sherbet. And that’s what’s happening throughout the Valley. Here are a few options for folks seeking a good black raspberry sugar cone and, well, a little extra:
Kimball Farm, Westford
This spot is the standard by which all other local ice cream stands/amusement centers are measured. The longtime ice cream stop has now become a mini-Disney. Oh sure, they offer over 50 flavors of their own ice cream. But there is also a country store, and a driving range, and bumper boats, and miniature golf, and batting cages, and a zip line, and pony rides, and … Tired yet? Maybe you need another one of their famous banana splits to make it through the afternoon.
Ice Cream Fun Fact: Nationally, the top-selling flavors are vanilla, with 33 percent of the market, and chocolate, with 19 percent.
Merrimack Valley Pavilion, Tewksbury
First of all, 25 flavors of Richardson’s Ice Cream is a good start. But that’s hardly enough these days. So MVP also has a laser tag space, miniature golf, a ropes course and an arcade. There is even an
on-premises cafe. Who needs ice cream?
Fun Fact: It takes 12 pints of milk to make one gallon of ice cream.
Great Brook Farm State Park, Carlisle
This state park happens to have a seasonal ice cream stand. Don’t expect any newfangled techo-gizmos, but if you feel the need, as Joni Mitchell sang, to get “back to the garden,” this is the place. The park is home to the first robotic milking system in Massachusetts, and tours are offered. It also has over 20 miles of trails available for walkers, hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders. Dogs are even allowed, with some restrictions.
Fun Fact: It takes about 50 licks to finish a single-scoop ice cream cone.
Max’s Country Golf, Tyngsborough
More Richardson’s Ice Cream, 40 flavors in fact. But this state line standard provides customers with the opportunity to slip into the batting cages, practice their swing at the driving range, play miniature golf through a cave and a country barn, or try to bash a buddy in a bumper boat.
Fun Fact: Ice cream was a treat reserved for European royalty until 1660, when it was first sold at a Paris cafe.
Jay Gee’s Ice Cream & Fun Center,
Methuen and Salem, N.H.
Over 60 flavors of homemade ice cream and other frozen treats will get your attention. But there’s more. The Methuen operation also has a little something for everyone, from batting cages and go-carts to miniature golf and an arcade.
Fun Fact: 19 percent of Americans say they eat ice cream in bed.
Sarkisian Farms, Andover
Look for 40 flavors of Richardson’s Ice Cream along with a driving range and putting green. A quick golf tip: putting is very, very difficult when you are holding a crunch-a-saurus cone.
Fun Fact: 1 out of 5 people share ice cream with their pet.
Richardson’s Farm, Middleton
First of all, it only seems right that this place offers homemade Richardson’s Ice Cream. Other attractions include two miniature golf courses, a driving range, batting cages and a working dairy farm.
Fun Fact: More ice cream is sold on Sundays than any other day of the week.
Shaw Farm, Dracut
Gotta love their slogan: “If they say it’s homemade, ask to see their cows.” You can do that at Shaw Farm. They give farm tours and have a farm store with baked goods, meats, cheeses and more. The ice cream is homemade, of course, and usually features over 50 flavors.
Fun Fact: The first ice cream cone was made by Italo Marchiony in New York City.
It all begins with Hodgie’s homemade ice cream. But Cedarland then spices up its operation with two miniature golf courses, batting cages, a ropes course and a 28-foot climbing wall.
Fun Fact: More ice cream is produced in June than in any other month.
Heritage Farm Ice Cream & Restaurant, Lowell
Over 30 ice cream flavors are available, along with lime rickeys and malteds. During the summer season, Heritage Farm offers free concerts every Monday night at the Sampas Pavilion across the street. Monday is also Classic Car Show night. Other special events include Bike Night and Kids Night.
*Fun facts from ecreamery.com