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Minnesota Ice Cream Shops: My Ice Cream Summer

Today is National Ice Cream Day. July is National Ice Cream Month. So now is the perfect time to tell you about my ice cream summer.

I can't take credit for this idea. A few years ago, prompted by how fast the long summer days seem to fly by, I wrote a post called "What Will You Do With Your Wild And Precious Summer?" In it, reminded myself that we don't need to wait for the weekend or a vacation to enjoy the season; picking a few things you really love can bring you little pockets of joy all summer long.

Since then, my son has consistently chosen ice cream as his #1 summer thing. He suggests ice cream for almost every snack (and more than a few meals). When we went to Europe to visit friends (back when you could go to Europe to visit friends) el helado del dia (the ice cream of the day) became our tradition in Spain, Portugal and France.

We kept that tradition up at home. (Although the ice cream of the week -- or the ice cream from our freezer -- might be a more accurate description of our more regular pattern of ice cream consumption).

Now that my husband and I are vaccinated, we're more comfortable traveling again. So we brought back the ice cream tradition on our trips to Duluth, Minnesota and our weekend jaunts into Minnesota lake country. A new Explore Minnesota promotion called The Minnesota Scoop turned out to be a great tool for helping us explore.

It's a simple concept. You try something from one of almost 100 participating shops and get a stamp on your card. Once you have six stamps, you send a photo of your card in for a free T-shirt (there are still some available), weekly prizes and grand prize travel giveaways.

The contest goes through the end of July 2021. But since you can earn all of your stamps at one spot and there are lots of participating stores scattered around the state, you can fill up the card pretty quickly, especially if you have a family or want to treat your friends to a cone on a hot summer day. (This summer has been scorching, so there are lots of super melty ice cream photos in in this post.)

Even if you don't do this particular contest, exploring a city through one lens (like ice cream shops) opens up lots of new opportunities. For example, if I hadn't seen it on the #MNScoop lists of participating shops, I never would have known Sweet Amelia's Cupcakery also sold ice cream.

We may not have stopped in Grand Rapids at all. But we did. If we hadn't sought out this particular ice cream stop, we wouldn't have stumbled upon the mall chock full of antique and vintage stores that it's located in. And I definitely wouldn't have left with a backpack I used on the North Shore trails, a killer vintage lace skirt, a cute striped midi dress and more -- all for less than $30.

In Duluth, we tried ice cream from Grandma's Boxcar in the shadow of Aerial Lift Bridge. The little outdoor ice cream stand is right in Canal Park, so we could watched the ships come in and out of the world's largest freshwater port on Lake Superior.

The list of Minnesota ice cream shops also encouraged us to go deeper into the the city. Love Creamery makes small-batch ice cream in the Lincoln Park Craft District, an eclectic, art-focused neighborhood way off the tourist trail.

The line out the door was a very good sign. The fact that they offered an ice cream sampler was another. It was such a fun way to sample a bunch of flavors and to share. (The rhubarb and the key lime were my favorite.) They also have vegan options so everyone can enjoy a summer treat.

But using ice cream as a jumping off point helped us see familiar places in a new way too. I've been going to Detroit Lakes ever since I was a kid, but I didn't know Hub 41 sold ice cream until I spotted it on the list of Minnesota ice cream shops. Now eating huge waffle cones in the Adirondack chairs as we watch the boats, sunbathers and pedestrians along the public beach is one of my favorite summer things.

The revelations continued closer to home. Fargo is a border city, which means I can pop over to Moorhead whenever I want.

The prices at the friendly neighborhood Moorhead Freez were so cheap, I did a double take. My son and I both got ice cream for less than the four bucks I found rattling around at the bottom of my purse. I guess the retro signage isn't the only thing that's a throwback!

The Moorhead Dairy Queen offers lots of nostalgia too. It's been one of the top Minnesota ice cream shops for generations. Its a family owned, non-franchise store, which means it stocks treats like chipper sandwiches, monkey tails and Mister Malties that you can't get anywhere else. Fans have been lining up for ice cream and affordable lunch specials like Bar-B-Ques and chili since 1949. It's wild to think that my son can eat the same food at the same shop as my mom did when she was a kid.

But that's what so great about making a point to support Minnesota ice cream shops. Ordering a waffle cone or an ice cream sundae is about so much more than getting a cool photo for National Ice Cream Day or enjoying the simple pleasure of an ice cream summer. You're supporting a local small business, keeping that money in the community and preserving unique neighborhood spots for the next generation.

What about you?

Which Minnesota ice cream shops do you love?

What's your favorite ice cream flavor?

What kinds of stops do you arrange your travel around?

Do you celebrate "events" like National Ice Cream Day? Why or why not?

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Tag your pics and travel tips #PrairiePeople and #PrairiePlaces on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. You could inspire an upcoming post on Prairie Style File. Prairie Style File is curated by Alicia Underlee Nelson. All rights reserved.

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