World of Ice Cream: San Francisco

ice cream collage

What flavor is that purple ice cream?

Ube is a purple yam from Asia, perfect in ice cream.

Why is ice cream sometimes green?

Some ingredients are matcha (green tea), avocado, mint, or pandan leaf.

Hmmm, why is this strawberry sorbetto is so red?

Sorbetto has no cream or milk, so fruit color stands out.

Ice cream is a taste of the world. And so delicious it is.

Here’s Travel for Kids list of favorite San Francisco ice cream shops, organized by neighborhood – have fun tasting favorite and international flavors of ice cream!


Mission District

colorful ice cream

The Mission District has plenty of ice cream shops, and is easily accessible with public transportation, take the J Church tram.

Bi-Rite Creamery 3692 18th St.

The location of this ice cream shop is ideal, it’s one block from Mission Dolores Park. Enjoy ice cream outdoors on the grass, no worry about dripping ice cream.

Look for year round flavors of Chocolate (with Guittard chocolate), Roasted Banana, Mint Chip, Salted Caramel ice cream, vegan flavors Chocolate Coconut, Black Berry Banana, Maple Oat Crunch, and seasonal flavors such as Birthday Cake, Blueberry Crisp, Peach Cobbler.

Along with scoops of ice cream, on the menu are sundaes, fruit flavor ice pops, chocolate covered ice cream bars, ice cream sandwiches, and a donut with soft-serve ice cream inside.

Garden Creamery 3566 20th St.

In a recent visit, there were Asian-inspired ice cream and sorbet – Coconut pandan (coconut milk and pale green pandan leaf), Orange Creamsicle (Mandarin orange and cream), Mexanilla Mango (two kinds of mango), Bangkok Thai (toasted sesame and salted plum sweet cream), plus Cookies (oreos) and Cream, Banana Salted Caramel, chocolate, vanilla flavors.

Garden Creamery offers ice cream, vegan sorbets made with coconut milk, ice pops covered with chocolate, and ice cream sandwiches, such as vanilla between two oatmeal cookies, dipped in chocolate.

Mitchell’s Ice Cream 688 San Jose Ave.

Mitchell’s is a family-run business, at this location since 1953, and it’s as popular as ever.

This ice cream shop offers a wide variety of tropical flavors – Lucuma (from Peru), Mango, Jackfruit (from the Philippines), Macapuno (sweet coconut), Avocado, Ube (purple yam), Tropical Four (banana, guava, mango, pineapple), and traditional flavors such as Mexican Chocolate, Dulce de Leche, Strawberries n’ Cream, along with sundaes, sorbets, ice cream sandwiches.

Mitchell’s is on the southern edge of the Mission District. Take the J Church tram, walk two blocks down 29th St. to San Jose Ave.


North Beach

strawberry sorbetto

This neighborhood is also called “Little Italy.” Starting in the Gold Rush, Italian immigrants came to San Francisco, bringing with them their food, and ice cream – gelato.

What makes gelato different from ice cream?

Gelato has more milk and less cream than ice cream, is typically less sweet, and softer than ice cream.

Sorbetto is non-dairy, typically made with luscious fresh fruits, such as strawberry, lemon, apricot, raspberry, orange.

Washington Square, San Francisco’s oldest park, is close by, perfect place to enjoy your ice cream.

Lush Gelato 520 Columbus Ave

Lush Gelato offers ice cream made from scratch, with ingredients from local fruit and dairy farms, menu changes frequently.

When we visited recently, gelato flavors included Handmade Cookies & Cream, Dark Chocolate, Fresh Mint Chip, Rocky Road, Chocolate Sorbet with Thin Mints, Creme Fraiche and Baked Apples.

Gelato Classico 576 Union St.

A “classic” gelato shop, large colorful ice cream statue out front,

Traditional gelato flavors are Hazelnut, Tiramisu (coffee and mascarpone), Spumoni (candied fruits and nuts, Stracciatella (vanilla ice cream with chocolate bits), blackberry, strawberry, lemon sorbetto.



matcha ice cream

During the Gold Rush, Japanese immigrants came to San Francisco. They settled in the city, established their businesses, and re-built after the 1906 earthquake in the neighborhood that is now Japantown (Nihonmachi).

Visiting Japantown today, kids can try ice cream with Japanese ingredients and original flavors – matcha (powdered green tea), kinako (roasted soy bean), red bean, ginger, lychee (fruit), tofu.

Uji Time Dessert (East Mall)

Soft-serve ice cream with Matcha (green tea), Sesame, Ube flavors in a Taiyaki cone (shaped like a fish) or regular cone, toppings such as sprinkles, oreo crumbs, honey.

Ice cream flavors include Yuzu Passion Fruit, White Peach, Tofu (dairy-free), Malted Milk, Lychee.

Matcha Cafe Maiko (Kinokuniya Building)

Soft-serve ice cream in fresh-made waffle cone – bright green Matcha (green tea), Vanilla, plus ice cream and shaved ice, parfaits with ice cream and mochi balls, Matcha and Hojicha (roasted green tea) floats and frappes.


Golden Gate Park

twirl nd dip ice cream

Twirl and Dip 335 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr.

Hand-crafted soft serve ice cream, with chocolate hot fudge “dip,” more toppings with chocolate chips, rainbow sprinkles, honeycomb candy, waffle cones, ice cream soda floats, sundaes.

Also delicious popsicles in flavors of strawberry, lemon, orange, raspberry watermelon lemonade.

Tip: Twirl and Dip yellow truck is parked behind the bandshell on the Music Concourse in Golden Gate Park, near Japanese Tea Garden and Cal Academy.

San Francisco’s Hometown Creamery 1290 9th Ave..

Ice cream made from scratch – flavors such as Chocolate Sorbet, Blueberry Lemon Bar, Fresh Mint Chip, Vanilla, Bread Pudding, fudge and caramel sauce toppings, plus ice cream sandwiches, milkshakes, sundaes, chocolate chip cookies and brownies.

Shop is located one block from Golden Gate Park, on 9th Ave.


Classic San Francisco

 ghirardelli chocolate sundae

Original Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop
Ghirardelli Square, Fisherman’s Wharf

In 1849, Domenico Ghirardelli came from Italy, and set up a chocolate business and “confectionary” store in San Francisco. After making chocolates for decades, Ghirardelli opened up an ice cream shop, like the old- fashioned ice cream parlors.

Kids will have fun watching a flowing chocolate wall and rollers of chocolate swirling round and round. Sit in a replica cable car while enjoying sundaes, milkshakes, cookies, brownies. Chocolate shop has a wide selection of chocolates.

it's ice ice cream

IT’S-IT ice cream sandwich

Playland at the Beach was a popular amusement park at Ocean Beach, on the western end of Golden Gate Park.

In 1928, an ice cream stand offered a new treat – ice cream sandwich, with two oatmeal cookies dipped in chocolate, scoop of vanilla ice cream in the middle. It was so delicious, people said “This is IT.”

The amusement park has closed, but IT’S-IT ice cream sandwiches are still made in the Bay Area, and enjoyed by generations of kids, parents and grandparents.

There’s no specific ice cream shop, but in downtown San Francisco, find IT’S-IT ice cream sandwiches in the freezer section of Target stores and Safeway supermarkets.

Target at the Metreon (789 Mission St) is right next to Yerba Buena Gardens, perfect spot to take your ice cream sandwiches.

Safeway supermarkets are located at 145 Jackson St. (Embarcadero), 350 Bay St. (Fisherman’s Wharf), and 15 Marina Blvd (Marina).


Tip: Find out more fun things to do with kids in San Francisco on Travel for Kids, and check out our list of fun places to stay: San Francisco family hotels.