9 Must-Try Santa Barbara Ice Cream Shops (With Prices 2024)

Santa Barbara, California, is an ice cream town, plain and simple. From world-famous brands like McConnell’s Ice Cream and Insomnia Cookies to local favorites, the Santa Barbara ice cream scene has left its mark on the world of frozen treats. The fascination with ice cream stems back to the late 1800s and early 1900s when the region was filled with family-owned dairy farms. While Santa Barbara, California is no longer the dairy powerhouse it once was, the legacy of fine, handcrafted ice cream shops lives on.

With a constellation of excellent ice cream shops located on State Street and others dispersed elsewhere in the city, there are sure to be ice cream shops for every taste. We’ve compiled a list of every major ice cream shop in Santa Barbara, California, complete with reviews and recommendations. Each one has its own unique flavors of ice cream, and each one contributes to what has become one of the best ice cream towns in the United States.

1. McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream

Storefront of Mission Street Ice Cream in Santa Barbara.
Mission Street Ice Cream – A sweet retreat in Santa Barbara.

Store Hours: Sun-Thurs 12:00 – 9:00 PM, Fri-Sat 12:00 – 10:00 PM

Must-try Flavors: Eureka Lemon & Marionberries, Coffee, Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Cost for a Single Scoop: 1 or 2 flavors $6.25

Locations: 728 State Street, 120 State Street

The OG of Santa Barbara ice cream shops, McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams is a venerable Santa Barbara institution. The first McConnell’s shop was opened on the corner of Mission and State Street in 1950 by Gordon “Mac” and Ernesteen McConnell, a couple who had previously run some of the United States’ first health food stores. Disturbed by the trend of making ice cream fast, cheap, and easy with artificial ingredients, the McConnells decided to go the other direction. They made everything from scratch, using locally sourced ingredients, California grass-grazed milk, and a new take on the European French Pot ice cream-making process.

Today, McConnell’s ice cream has become renowned the world over. They recently took it back to where it all began, opening a flagship store only half a mile from the original McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream shop on State Street. All the flavors are delicious, but the churros con leche and the salted caramel chip are personal favorites. Stop in for some seriously tasty ice cream, and remember to stock your freezer with a few pints to go.

2. Tondi Gelato

Storefront of Tondi Gelato shop.

Store Hours: 12:00 – 10:00 PM daily

Must-try Flavors: Honeycomb, lemon, salted caramel

Cost for a Single Scoop: 1 or 2 flavors $5

Locations: 401 Paseo Nuevo

This not-to-be-missed traditional gelateria is a perfect pairing with a sunny stroll down the new downtown promenade in Santa Barbara. Gelato is a traditional Italian ice cream that uses more milk and less cream than American ice cream, making it denser and less airy. Located just off State Street, Tondi Gelato makes all their gelati from scratch, in-house, using traditional methods from Europe. They have a variety of vegan options and a rotating cast of seasonal flavors.

All the gelati sold at Tondi Gelato are extremely fresh and flavors are constantly changing, including some (like their Vaniglia e Zafferano, made with fresh vanilla beans and saffron) that are quite interesting and exotic. You can even go the traditional Sicilian route and eat the gelato in a brioche bun (brioche con gelato). Traditional Italian granitas are also available. For a taste of Italy in downtown Santa Barbara, you can’t go wrong with a scoop from Tondi Gelato.

3. Rori’s Artisanal Creamery

Store Hours: Sun 12:00 – 8:30 PM, Mon-Thurs 1:00 – 8:30 PM, Fri-Sat 12:00 – 9:00 PM

Must-try Flavors: Lemond curd, honey lavender, pistachio black pepper

Cost for a Single Scoop: $5.90

Locations: 910 Montana Ave

The ice cream at Rori’s Artisanal Creamery in Santa Barbara is the incarnation of founder Rori Travato’s life philosophy: “The only way to make it pure is to make it pure.” And pure this ice cream is. Rori’s Artisanal Creamery makes small-batch ice cream with only the finest ingredients. Travato spent years in New York working as a food stylist and chef with some of the most well-known publications in the food business before coming to Santa Barbara to get into the ice cream-making business.

The distinctive flavors and incredible quality of ingredients are a testament to her love for good food and good ice cream. Popular flavors include pistachio black pepper, honey lavender, and Rori’s personal favorite, lemon curd. This is some of the most tasty, creamy ice cream that Santa Barbara has to offer.

4. Great Pacific Ice Cream Co.

Store Hours: 10:00 AM – 9:00 PM daily

Must-try Flavors: Rocky Road, Cookies & Cream, Pistachio

Cost for a Single Scoop: $6.50

Locations: 219 Stearns Wharf

Located directly on the pier at Stearns Wharf, the Great Pacific Ice Cream Co. is a traditional Santa Barbara ice cream shop that serves 32 flavors of handmade, local fine ice creams and sherberts. Served in single or double scoops in freshly made waffle cones, nothing beats the experience of a walk down the pier with a loved one or your kids, eating ice cream by the beach under the hot sun. The view is beautiful, the service is excellent, and the ice cream is rich and creamy. Ice cream by the Wharf is sure to be a hit with kids, a date, or your loved ones on a family outing.

5. Insomnia Cookies

A dozen freshly baked Insomnia cookies on a plate.
Midnight Cravings Satisfied: Insomnia Cookies.

Store Hours: Sun-Thurs 12:00 PM – 12:00 AM, Fri-Sat 12:00 PM – 1:00 AM

Must-try Flavors: Soybean Vanilla, Mint Chip, Rocky Road

Cost for a Single Scoop: 2 scoops $5.75

Locations: 430 State Street

Insomnia Cookies has made a splash near college campuses across the U.S. by serving cookies and fine ice cream, and this location near UC Santa Barbara is no exception. Founded in a dorm room at the University of Pennsylvania, Insomnia Cookies has made its reputation—as its name suggests—by having delicious cookies and ice creams available at all hours of the night.

The Santa Barbara location on State Street serves up cookies and ice cream, including a delicious “cookiewhich” (a scoop of ice cream sandwiched between two cookies) that is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. This location also has gluten-free and dairy-free ice cream and cookie options for those with dietary restrictions.

6. Mission Street Ice Cream

Four assorted ice creams from Mission Street Ice Cream in Santa Barbara.
Four ice creams: Mission Street Ice Cream, Santa Barbara.

Store Hours: Sun-Thurs 10:30 AM – 10:00 PM, Fr-Sat 10:30 AM – 10:30 PM

Must-try Flavors: Churros con leche, Santa Barbara Strawberry, Mexican Chocolate Sorbet

Cost for a Single Scoop: 2 flavors $5.00

Locations: 201 W Mission Street

Mission Street Ice Cream started out as a branch of McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams called “McConnell’s on Mission” but has been owned and independently operated by Bob and Jean Moss, who are still fixtures at the store. Family-owned and operated is the name of the game here, as the entire shop is a labor of the owner’s pride and love for tasty ice cream and frozen yogurt. They still proudly serve McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams, along with frozen yogurt made fresh daily in-house featuring local flavors and ingredients.

All your favorite McConnell’s ice cream flavors, from churros con leche to mint chip, are available, and the ice cream is made from California grass-grazed milk. The portions are generous, and the same friendly faces greet customers year after year. Whether you’re after a scoop in a cup or a cone or simply want to grab a pint of fine ice cream to go, Mission Street Ice Cream is a community pillar that is not to be missed.

7. The Lovin’ Spoonful

Store Hours: 12:00 – 10:00 PM daily

Must-try Flavors: Dutch Chocolate, Dulce de leche, Cake batter

Cost: by weight

Locations: 2028 Cliff Dr.

Located outside of downtown Santa Barbara, The Lovin’ Spoonful serves up incredible frozen yogurt that is worth the short drive. Beloved by Santa Barbara locals and tourists alike, the frozen yogurt here is made from the finest local ingredients and cultured with live and active cultures—which, yes, makes it healthy, too!

Enjoy a variety of delicious flavors of frozen yogurts, sorbets, and soft-serve ice creams which include organic, gluten-free, non-fat, low-fat, premium, Greek, tart, vegan options, and no-sugar-added options. The store is also inviting and environmentally friendly, with extreme sports playing on the television, ample parking, and a comfy fireplace that runs on bioethanol fuel.

Your search for the best frozen yogurt in Santa Barbara is over—The Lovin’ Spoonful is a must-visit destination.

8. Mangione’s Italian Ice Co.

Store Hours: Sun 12:00 – 7:00 PM, Tues-Thurs 12:00 – 8:00 PM, Fri-Sat 12:00 – 9:00 PM, closed Mondays

Must-try Flavors: Cherry, Mango, Espresso

Cost for a Single Scoop: $3.50

Locations: 1222 State Street

For something sweet but a little different on State Street in downtown Santa Barbara, give Mangione’s Italian Ice Co. a try. Not quite ice cream, Italian ice is made from granulated ice—think shaved ice, but denser—and sweetened with natural ingredients like fruit. This is a great option for dairy-free treats and vegan options, as the flavors on offer are categorized into water-based and dairy-based flavors. Even the non-dairy options are incredibly creamy and delicious.

Fruit flavors like cherry, peach, and watermelon are available, as are dairy-based flavors like creamy coconut, chocolate, and espresso. If you’re lucky, you’ll find Mangione himself at the register. The prices are reasonable and this healthier ice cream alternative is beloved by kids and adults alike.

9. Sweetie’s Ice Cream Shop

Store Hours: Sun-Thurs 2:00 – 9:00 PM, Fri-Sat 2:00 – 10:00 PM

Must-try Flavors: Sweet Cream Caramel Brownie, Chocolate Covered Strawberries, Coffee

Cost for a Single Scoop: $4.25

Locations: 1826 Cliff Dr.

Located on the Mesa in Santa Barbara, Sweetie’s Ice Cream Shop proudly served McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams and delicious frozen yogurt in a spacious and service-oriented environment. For those wanting to skip the lines at some of the downtown McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream locations, Sweetie’s is a great choice. They have a spacious dining room that is perfect for hosting larger ice cream parties to cool down at the end of a beach day. If you’re exploring the Mesa in Santa Barbara, Sweetie’s Ice Cream Shop is a great choice for a tasty, creamy treat.

Key Takeaway

With Santa Barbara’s beautiful weather, ice cream is always a great idea after a long day at one of Santa Barbara’s iconic beaches. Give some of these delicious ice cream shops a try and let us know which one is your favorite!

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