The Best Ice Cream Shop in All 50 States


No matter the time of year, nothing beats a trip to your local ice cream shop. Whether it is an old fashioned soda fountain that's been around for decades or a new, small-batch artisanal shop with gourmet flavors, an ice cream shop is a great place to make memories and enjoy a sweet treat. Here are some of the best ice cream shops in all 50 states.


Location: Mobile, Alabama

For a taste of what some patrons have called “the best ice cream in the South,” head to Cammie’s Old Dutch Ice Cream Shoppe in Mobile. Originally owned by Edwin Widemire, it was opened in 1969 using Widemire's family recipe. Cammie Wayne got her first job there scooping ice cream at 16, and went on to purchase the shop in 1998. The ice cream shop offers up 47 different flavors, all made on location, as well as Pennsylvania Dutch milkshakes and malts, banana splits, floats, and tulip sundaes which are dubbed “an old fun food tradition for Sunday…” Another favorite amongst Alabamans is Matt’s Homemade Ice Cream in Gulf Shores, which also uses Cammie’s ice cream.


Location: Girdwood, Alaska

Seward Highway—127 miles from Anchorage to Seward—is one of just 43 locations designated an "All-American Road" (a designation saved for the most scenic in the country) by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Along this route, you’ll find Girdwood, home of The Ice Cream Shop. This year-round ice cream shop serves up over 30 flavors of hard ice cream and other treats, and you’ll be greeted by Mt. Alyeska’s slopes of wild flowers or snowy peaks, depending on when you visit.


Location: Phoenix, Arizona

MacApline's Soda Fountain and Espresso Bar

In what was formerly an old pharmacy, you’ll find MacAlpine’s, a soda fountain originally established in 1929. Grab a stool or booth and take a trip back in time with an egg cream or cherry vanilla phosphate. Besides their ice cream sodas and cheeseburgers, patrons enjoy their vintage jukebox. Once frequented by Frank Lloyd Wright, MacAlpine’s is rumored to be the place where Wayne Newton was discovered.


Location: Little Rock, Arkansas

Since 2011, Loblolly Creamery has been using milk and cream from hormone-free dairy cows, fair-trade chocolate and vanilla, as well as only local, seasonal, and organic fruits and spices for their ice creams and sorbets. Popular flavors include the double vanilla and salted caramel, but these artisan ice cream makers rotate other more inventive flavors like blackberry sweet corn ice cream, buttermilk, honey green tea ice cream, and vanilla coconut sorbet.


Location: various locations in California

McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams has been making small-batch ice creams for nearly seven decades. The shop has been using milk and cream from grass-grazed cows and eggs from "local, organically-fed, cage-free hens"—never with preservatives, fillers, or additives—at their Old Dairy creamery since 1949. In their “manifesto” they say that they “believe that ice cream can cure a broken heart.” Clever flavors like eureka lemon & marionberries, churros con leche (with Sri Lankan cinnamon and R.R. Lochhead vanilla), and whiskey and pecan pralines (smoky Kentucky bourbon) as well as seasonal flavors like pumpkin pie and eggnog can be enjoyed in Santa Barbara, downtown Los Angeles, and Studio City. If you’re not in California, it’s okay, they also offer FedEx two-day delivery with a four pint minimum.


Location: Denver, Colorado

Little Man Ice Cream
Yelp, Annie N.

Expect long lines and the smell of homemade waffle cones at Denver’s Little Man Ice Cream. The shop itself is housed inside a 28-foot-tall cream can, inspired by Coney Island’s hot dog-shaped stands, and the staff wear vintage uniforms while serving handmade ice cream, vegan ice cream, and sorbet. They host live music and movie nights, and serve up ice cream sandwiches, shakes floats, and sundaes. But they are known for their unique flavors such as oatmeal cookies, space junkie, French toast, and Twix. Enjoy your dessert guilt-free—their Scoop for Scoop program donates a 3-ounce scoop of rice or beans to developing countries for every scoop of ice cream, and has provided scoops to nine countries on four continents since opening in 2008.


Location: Griswold, CT

This dairy farm was first started by the Button family in 1975. They constructed (from scratch) their own ice cream stand, opening Buttonwood Farm Fresh Ice Cream in 1998. Since then, they've been making their ice cream and waffle cones fresh each day for families to enjoy. Unique offerings like dark and stormy, key lime cheesecake, and cardamom lime yogurt can be enjoyed while taking in the surrounding acre of sunflowers or spending time exploring their 7-acre corn maze.


Location: Hockessin, Delaware

You’ll find Woodside Farm Creamery located in a village on the border between Pennsylvania and Delaware. Established in 1796, this was primarily a dairy farm, owned and operated by the Mitchell family for more than a century. The farm provided eggs, poultry, sheep, flowers, beef, and pumpkins before deciding to return cows to the farm in 1995 and opening their creamery in 1998.

Today, employees hold a children’s story time every Tuesday, and their herd of about 30 Jersey cows assist in making fresh small batch ice cream for cone scoops, milkshakes, ice cream cookie sandwiches and ice cream cakes. The Mitchells celebrated their 200th year of family-owned farming in 1996 and were recognized as one of the few Centennial farms in the state of Delaware. Stop in for the ice cream (available in flavors like motor oil and chocolate thunder) and spend the day watching the many sheep, goats, cats, and dogs that also live on the farm along with the herd of cows.


Location: Miami, Florida

Founded in 2011 as an “artisanal ice cream and sorbet boutique,” Azucar Ice Cream Company is a colorful shop in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood. The playful ice cream and sorbet flavors are made up of natural ingredients often sourced from local farmer’s markets. They offer signature flavors like platano maduro (sweet plantain), café con leche (Cuban coffee with Oreo), caramel flan, and Guinness chocolate. They also rotate seasonal flavors that include olive oil, orange zest and dark chocolate, margarita-flavored sorbet, and sweet potato ancho chile chocolate chip. If you’re not in the mood to experiment, they always have classic flavors mint chocolate chip and vanilla—so choose wisely.


Location: various locations in Georgia

Jakes Ice Cream
Yelp, Giovanna H.

Tucked inside Atlanta’s Irwin Street Market or in the upcoming East Point location, you’ll find Jake’s, with only eight flavors to choose from. Ice cream from the shop, established in 1999, are served in restaurants all over Atlanta, thanks to their creative and fun flavors. The most popular include Chocolate Slap Yo Mama, which mixes chocolate sauce with chocolate chips and Oreo cookies, and Brown Shugah Vanilla. Other flavors like Chocolate Pecan Piescream and Breakfast in Bed (cinnamon ice cream mixed with Belgian waffles soaked in bourbon pecan sauce) are sought after due to their 18 percent butterfat content—the highest you’ll find in ice cream, according to their site—and 100 percent deliciousness.


Location: Nahiku, Maui, Hawaii

Coconut Glen’s is a roadside stand serving organic, vegan ice cream all based with coconut milk in varieties like pineapple panang curry and papaya lime. Made with “love and coconuts from the jungles of Maui," Glen’s uses all local fruit and is served in a coconut shell. Getting there is half the battle—found between mile marker 27 and 28 on the Hana Highway—you’ll find his stand along the eastern shore of Maui, in the rain forest.


Location: Boise, Idaho

Expect to feel like you’re in another decade at this ice cream shop, located in Boise. Goody's features an authentic 1930s soda fountain with barstools, glass ice cream dishes, and glass candy displays that make you visitors and locals feel nostalgic for times of the neighborhood soda fountain. It also offers up handmade ice cream, chocolates, and caramel corn, as well as tons of other candy to purchase. Their slogan "Only too much is enough," is something we can all get behind.


Location: Chicago, Illinois

Bobtail Ice Cream Company opened in the Windy City in 2004, using three generations of family recipes for their shop. They’ve since added five additional Chicago stores, and one suburban shop, and claim to be the only Chicago company that makes "truly, homemade hard-pack ice cream." The shop is open year-round, offering specialty flavors like pumpkin and white chocolate peanut butter. The menu also includes hot fudge brownie sundaes, as well as Steamers (your choice of ice cream and a topping steamed with milk) and the Bobby Joe (your choice of ice cream blended with ice, espresso, and coffee).


Location: Upland, Indiana

Ivanhoes interior
Yelp, Anna O.

Ivan and Carol Slain purchased Wiley’s Drive-In in 1965, and continue to run it as Ivanhoes, with their son Mark. A full restaurant and sandwich shop, it has become well-known for having 100 different shakes and sundaes on their menu, including chocolate anonymous and peach cream pie. Students from nearby Taylor University and Indiana Wesleyan University enjoy trying to try every flavor to make their “100 Club.”


Location: Des Moines, Iowa

Beloved ice cream shop Snookies has a been a favorite among Des Moines residents for over 30 years. Folks line up in the summer to try their array of ice cream, shakes, and malts. Customers are even encouraged to bring their dogs for a free pup cone in the summer to the family business. Owner Jim Graves, who died at age 80, owned the shop with his wife Marilyn before passing it on to their daughter, who runs the store today.


Location: various locations in Kansas

Sylas and Maddy’s has made its ice cream and waffle cones fresh daily since they opened a location in Lawrence in 1997. (They added an Olathe location in 1999.) At both locations, you can enjoy Old Fashion Sundaes and banana splits, as well as unique flavors like coffee break, margarita sherbet, and peanut butter freak. They offer toppings like gummy bears, sprinkles, and Reese’s Pieces. Customers are free to enjoy desserts there, or take pints and quarts to go.


Location: Louisville, Kentucky

The Comfy Cow ice cream flavors
Yelp, Karen G.

Louisville’s The Comfy Cow opened in 2007 and was one of Southern Living’s “The South's Best Frozen Treats” in 2016. Often made from scratch with local ingredients and inspired by their Southern culinary roots, the shop offers delicious ice cream like cake “batter up,” cookie monster dough, and seasonal options like the espresso yourself. Served with various fruit, candy, nut, and sauce toppings, the ice cream products can be enjoyed on location or to go, and you can invent your own ice cream sandwiches and sundaes.


Location: New Orleans, Louisiana

Angelo Brocato’s has been run by the Brocato family for over 100 years, since it first opened at the original location in 1905, and was churned by hand. It was displaced by Hurricane Katrina, but returned to its present location after rebuilding in September of 2006. They are New Orleans’ oldest purveyor of cannoli, so you can choose the famous Sicilian treat or opt for their pistachio almond ice cream or over 20 flavors of gelato.


Location: various locations in Maine

Linda Parker’s Mount Desert Island Ice Cream was founded in Bar Harbor in 2005 and has expanded to an additional Bar Harbor location, as well as in Portland, Maine. The shop creates small-batch (five gallons) flavors like The Dude (White Russian ice cream) and also offers a four scoop "flight" for those who can’t decide. Mount Desert Island was named one of the best in the country by Food & Wine magazine, but the real seal of approval came in 2010, when pictures of President Obama, enjoying his coconut ice cream, were made public.


Location: Ocean City, Maryland

An Ocean City landmark on the Boardwalk since 1939, Dumser’s Dairyland now has seven locations in the area. This 1940s-style ice cream parlor and restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, if you’re interested in some cream of crab soup, Maryland fried chicken, or a delicious cheeseburger. But it's most popular for the homemade ice cream. They have standard flavors like vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, and peanut butter fudge, as well as specialty varieties like Hawaiian delight and coconut chocolate chip. They also serve ice cream sodas, dipped cones, and super sundaes like the Coco Loco which contains three dips of coconut chocolate ice cream and topped with hot fudge, marshmallows, peanuts, whipped cream, and a cherry on top.


Location: Centerville, Massachusetts

Four Seas Ice Cream interior
Four Seas Ice Cream

You'll find Four Seas Ice Cream housed in a former Blacksmith shop, just steps from the beaches of Cape Cod. The shop's homemade ice cream is now available off-season by the quart and in ice cream cakes, but the offerings are still best enjoyed as a summer treat in flavors like lemon crisp and rum and butter. Have a frappe, some cookie dough, or ice cream while enjoying this seaside shop.


Location: Traverse City, Michigan

Northern Michigan’s Moomers is a small, family-owned shop that has been serving homemade ice cream to Traverse City residents and visitors since 1998. Their Farm Creamery (opened in 2011) sells fresh milk from their cows, or you can try one of the their more than 160 flavors of ice cream, including banana bread and candy explosion. They also make custom ice cream cakes, and have soft serve, sorbet, and non-fat frozen yogurt. If you’re really hungry, try the Wholey Cow Sundae: 10 scoops of ice cream, all the toppings available, bananas, and brownies, served with an entire can of whipped cream.


Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Milkjam ice cream flavors
Yelp, Ashley C.

Managing to open up an ice cream shop in the dead of winter in Minnesota seems like a bad move, but the lines out the door of Minneapolis’s Milkjam Creamery tell another story. Owned by two brothers, this ice cream shop serves up witty flavors like the Waka Flocka Flakes ("vanilla bean w/ caramelized corn flakes & berry swirl") and Cereal Killers ("orange coriander milk with candied pebbles"). They also aim to keep half of the choices dairy-free for their lactose-intolerant customers.


Location: Hernando, Mississippi

Area 51 Ice Cream is just 30 minutes from downtown Memphis in Hernando, Mississippi. Check their Facebook page to find out which of their rotating flavors of homemade small-batch ice creams are on offer. Some recent flavors include coconut brown sugar, sweet cream, saigon cinnamon snickerdoodle, and lemon icebox. Their signature drink, The Roswell, is a take on an orange creamsicle: lemon icebox pie ice cream floated with Orange Crush soda and a swirl of grenadine.


Location: St. Louis, Missouri

ted drewes ice cream and exterior
Yelp, Julia K.

Not many ice cream shops can say that they also sell Christmas trees. You can get both at Ted Drewes. Frozen custard has been sold there for over 80 years, a post-baseball game tradition and Christmas trees have been sold for over 50. Both locations include 12 serving windows to accommodate the crowds and nearly 40 toppings to choose from. Ted Drewes is also home to The Concrete: Created in 1959, it is a malt or shake "so thick that they serve it upside down."


Location: Butte, Montana

One of Montana’s first drive-in restaurants, Matt’s Place, continues to wow locals and visitors in Butte with its classic 1930s look. Enjoy a cheeseburger and fries, milkshake, or ice cream sundae at the restaurant’s original 1936 counter. The spot was good enough to earn the James Beard Foundation’s 2016 American Classics Award, given to only five other U.S. restaurants for their "timeless appeal" and quality food.


Location: Lincoln, Nebraska

Ivanna Cone—designed with the look of an old-time soda fountain with very modern flavors—has been around for more than a decade. The ice cream menu includes French toast, lemongrass ginger, and more, all homemade on site with 20-quart ice cream makers that use ice and salt. (On a summer day, they may use up to 40 pounds of salt and 400 pounds of ice.) All of the 17 rotating ice cream flavors begin with a 14 percent butterfat sweet cream vanilla base. Some signature flavors even give back to charity groups. Try the Camp Kindle, which is marshmallow ice cream with strawberries, chocolate, graham crackers, pretzels, with baby marshmallows, and your money will go toward a summer camp for kids affected by HIV and AIDS.


Location: Las Vegas, Nevada

BLVD Creamery interior
BLVD Creamery

BLVD Creamery is an explosion of color and candy within Las Vegas’s Monte Carlo Resort and Casino. This brightly lit shop has an array of flavors (like caramel sea salt and matcha green tea) and toppings, but what’s make them really special is the specialty items they offer. Aside from adult boozy milkshakes, the menu includes milkshakes made with flavored cereal milk and ice sandwiches that can be made with freshly glazed warm donuts, brownies, or cookies.


Location: Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Since opening in 1982, Annabelle’s recipe of 16 ½ percent butterfat ice cream has been listed among America’s best. They currently have over 80 wholesale accounts across New Hampshire and a number of unique flavors. Try the chocolate chip with Kahlua, cashew caramel cluster, or seasonal flavors like caribbean coconut and peachy peach.


Location: Princeton, New Jersey

The original Victorian storefront of Thomas Sweet in Princeton, New Jersey opened in 1979. They now have four more locations across New Jersey, and one in Washington D.C. They have an array of delicious flavors and toppings, brownie sundaes and shakes, but they’re most famous for their blend-ins. For the latter, any flavor of ice cream or yogurt can be customized by blending it with three additional candies, nuts, or fruit topping to a nearly soft-serve form.


Location: various locations in New Mexico

Located in an adobe minutes from the Taos Ski Valley Resort in Arroyo Seco, you’ll find Taos Cow as well as other locations in Santa Fe. The company has been serving all-natural and hormone-free gourmet ice cream since 1993, include flavors like lavender, blueberry, and pecan nougat. They also serve breakfast and coffee, soups, salads, and other lunch items.


Location: various locations in New York

oddfellows miso ice cream in a bowl
Katie Burton

Cornbread, peanut butter & jelly, and lemon meringue are just some of the creative flavors you’ll find at Brooklyn’s OddFellows flagship shop and at the Manhattan location. The menu includes homemade ice cream, milkshakes, and “OddPockets,” which stuff ice cream into brioche bread and then heat it, along with toppings in a panini press. OddFellows donates 5 cents to a food bank in New York City for every serving sold, and offers catering as well as local delivery. Their goods can also be found at well-known locations like Saks Fifth Avenue, Mission Cantina, and Maison Premiere.


Location: Durham, North Carolina

The Parlour was once only found in its mobile scoop shop, a converted school bus that traveled around Durham serving up seasonally-inspired ice cream. A successful 2012 Kickstarter helped them raise money to build a permanent location where they make all the ice cream that 18 percent butterfat, pastries, and toppings from scratch. Try the summer corn or blueberry lavender flavors, or their most popular variety, salted butter caramel.


Location: Oakes, North Dakota

Nestled on a street in Oakes, North Dakota, you’ll find Sweets ‘N Stories, a combination of café, ice cream shop, and bookstore. Visit for flavors like coconut almond fudge, have an espresso, some lunch, or buy some of their handmade fudge.


Location: Cleveland, Ohio

interior sweet moses ice cream
Sweet Moses Soda Fountain & Treat Shop

Sweet Moses Soda Fountain and Treat Shop offers a variety of treats like gourmet popcorn, candies, homemade pies, root beer, and small batch ice cream using pure Madagascar vanilla and Belgian chocolate. The menu includes standard flavors like chocolate chip and cookies & cream as well as more unique offerings such as salted french caramel and bananas foster. All hot fudge and caramel sauces are made in-house, and the shop also sells phosphates, sundaes, and blueberry pie.


Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Started by a husband and wife team that expanded from an ice cream truck to its brick and mortar location in 2012, Roxy’s Ice Cream Social was named after the couple’s Great Dane, Roxy. Besides special flavors like blueberry cheesecake, banana cream, vegan cake batter, and lemon poppy seed, they also sell the Dreamsicle float, made of orange cream soda and vanilla ice cream. All varieties are made Philadelphia style without eggs on-site at the Plaza district location in Oklahoma City. (There is also another Oklahoma City location and upcoming Edmond Oklahoma location.)


Location: Portland, Oregon

Cool Moon Ice Cream Company is known for original creations, often rotating 26 flavors at a given time from a vast list of over 200 flavors. Lemon poppyseed, buttermilk marionberry, and Thai ice cream are offered alongside 11 mainstays like coffee crackle, birthday cake, and kulfi, made with pistachio, cardamom, and rosewater. All of the assortments are sweetened with cane sugar and handmade with natural ingredients.


Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Bassetts Ice Cream cone
Yelp, Diana B.

Touted as “America’s oldest ice cream company” on their website, Bassetts was established in 1861. The outpost at Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia has the original marble counters from the 1892 opening along with a menu offering over 30 flavors including, mocha chip, matcha, butterscotch vanilla, cinnamon, and raspberry truffle.


Location: various locations in Rhode Island

Voted one of the best ice cream parlor’s in the United States by TripAdvisor, Brickley’s homemade ice cream has expanded to two locations (in Narragansett and Wakefield) since opening in 1995. They have over 45 flavors of ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbert, and sorbet. Try unique flavors like chocolate brownie, malted milk ball, or coffee Oreo.


Location: Columbia, South Carolina

Sweet Cream Company is a far and away favorite in the Palmetto State. There, customers enjoy their choice of 16 rotating flavors topping-free. (The shop doesn't offer them.) Before you make the trek, check out their Facebook page to see what's on the menu. Assortments include panna cotta with candied orange peel, blackberry sage, and maple walnut. They also have a special cookie sandwich each month, like July's graham cracker cookie topped with fudge sauce and toasted marshmallow ice cream.


Location: Spearfish, South Dakota

Leones’ Creamery opened in the Old City Hall’s sandstone building in 2014. The shop is now part of the Historic Commercial Walking Tour of Spearfish, and serves the local community with eight rotating ice cream flavors (including one that is always vegan). Customers can choose to “Scoop it Forward” and leave ice cream for friends and relatives. Recent options: vanilla black pepper, blueberry goat’s cheese, and avocado.


Location: Nashville, Tennessee

Noted in 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, Elliston Place Soda Shop is the oldest continuously operating restaurant in Nashville, serving the city for over 75 years. You can pop in for fried chicken for lunch and stay for an ice cream cone, sundae, orange freeze, or egg cream. What’s sweeter? According to the restaurant, their location near the hospital means that the soda counter is a traditional place for new father’s to treat the older siblings of newborn babies to dessert.


Location: Houston, Texas

Fat Cat Creamery
Yelp, Michael S.

Fat Cat Creamery believes in sustainability, evidenced by their use of local ingredients and compostable packaging. (Even the spoons are environmentally friendly.) Fat Cat has five signature flavors that are offered year-round—milk chocolate stout, waterloo strawberry buttermilk, amaya coffee & cream, cat's meow milk Mexican vanilla, and chai tea coconut—but what they’re really known for are their seasonal flavors, including bourbon pecan pie and bunny bait.


Location: Springdale, Utah

Kim and Dave Watts are two retired engineers who were in search of a place to retire and work a little less. After deciding on an ice cream shop, they found a candy and ice cream shop listed for sale outside the entrance to Zion National Park while on vacation. Now, they serve ice cream, shakes, smoothies, and an assortment of chocolates and confections at Springdale Candy Company.


Location: Waitsfield, Vermont

The Sweet Spot serves French custard style ice cream using all natural and local ingredients. They offer standard flavors like chocolate, vanilla, and coffee as well as in-house seasonal flavors like blueberry crumble and peach bourbon. Stop in after skiing at nearby resorts, if you’re in need of lunch, coffee, or one of their frozen fruit pops or ice cream sandwiches.


Location: Richmond, Virginia

Bevs Homemade ice cream and cafe ice cream
Yelp, Kamille P.

Beverly Mazursky, the owner of Bev’s who is now in her 70s, returned to school at age 49 and graduated from the Culinary Institute of America. A year later, she opened Bev’s Homemade Ice Cream, which always has 12 “everyday flavors” on hand. The menu also features rotating varieties like honey almond oatmeal, honey, and white chocolate mocha chip.


Location: Seattle, Washington

Two Seattle natives Colleen Wilkie and Paul Dormann opened Shug's Soda Fountain & Ice Cream in 2016 in the historic Pike Place Market. The treats use Lopez Island Creamery’s ice cream and sorbets as well as homemade sauces and toppings like Italian cherries and apple compote.


Location: Charleston, West Virginia

Ellen’s Homemade Ice Cream was founded in 1997 and offers flavors like raspberry chocolate chip and coconut in a cup, cone, pint, or quart. The shop serves frozen yogurt (chocolate and vanilla or swirl) as well as fresh soups, salads, and wraps. You can also have a cappuccino milkshake or espresso freeze made using their fine coffee selection.


Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

purple door ice cream
Yelp, Tania T.

The husband and wife team behind Purple Door Ice Cream discussed opening an ice cream shop on their first date. What began as a wholesale business in 2011 eventually expanded to a retail store, where the duo makes ice cream with 14 percent butterfat. Flavors include balsamic vinegar, mango chutney, toasted oatmeal, and absinthe. They also believe in giving back through an initiative called Milk for Milwaukee, where they help provide fresh milk to local homeless shelters.


Location: Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Moo’s Gourmet Ice Cream is home to over 250 flavors of ice cream made with organic cream and fruit. Employees scoop 24 flavors a day. Stop by to try the Buzz Bomb, made with espresso, or the Wild Huckleberry, once voted the Best Dessert in Wyoming by the Food Network.

32 Facts About Turkeys to Gobble Right Up


Most of us probably associate turkey with a sumptuous Thanksgiving spread, but there’s a lot more to the big bird than how delicious it is alongside your grandma’s famous cranberry sauce. Here are a few bits of knowledge you can drop over the dinner table—when you’re not fighting with your family, that is.

1. The North American wild turkey population was almost wiped out.

Wild turkey

Wild turkeys once roamed the continent en masse, but by the early 20th century, the entire U.S. population had been whittled down to a mere 30,000 due to hunting and the destruction of their woodland habitats. In the 1940s, many of the remaining birds were relocated to parts of the U.S. with recovering woodlands so the turkeys could repopulate. Despite these efforts, by 1973, there were still just 1.5 million wild turkeys in North America. Today, that number is up to about 6 million.

2. Turkey appendages are like mood rings.

Wild turkey

The dangly appendage that hangs from the turkey’s forehead to the beak is called a snood. The piece that hangs from the chin is the wattle. These fleshy flaps can change color according to the turkey’s physical and mental health—when a male turkey (called a tom, of course) is trying to attract a mate, the snood and wattle turn bright red. If the turkey is scared, the appendages take on a blue tint. And if the turkey is ailing, they become very pale.

3. Turkeys can fly.

Close-up photo of a turkey via Getty Images

Well, domestic turkeys that are bred to be your Thanksgiving centerpiece can’t. They’re too heavy. But wild turkeys can, reportedly at speeds up to 55 miles per hour. Though they don’t go very far—usually less than 100 yards—wild turkeys are among the five largest flying birds in the world. They’re in good company: Others on the list include the swan and the albatross.

4. Turkeys can also swim.

Wild turkey drinking water

Turkeys don’t swim often, it seems, but they can, by tucking their wings in, spreading their tails, and kicking. In 1831, John James Audubon wrote, “I have been told by a friend that a person residing in Philadelphia had a hearty laugh on hearing that I had described the Wild Turkey as swimming for some distance, when it had accidentally fallen into the water. But be assured, kind reader, almost every species of land-bird is capable of swimming on such occasions, and you may easily satisfy yourself as to the accuracy of my statement by throwing a Turkey, a Common Fowl, or any other bird into the water.”

5. Turkey poop can tell you a lot.

A handler picking up turkey poop at the White House Turkey Pardon in 2013.
Getty / Chip Somodevilla / Staff

The next time you happen across turkey poop—which happens all the time, we know—take a closer look at it. If the droppings are shaped like a “J,” they were left there by a male turkey. Spiral-shaped poo? The culprit is female.

The citizens of Pilot Rock, Oregon, probably don’t much care about the shape of the stuff, but more about the quantity of it. Earlier this year, Pilot Rock turned to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) for help combating a flock of 50 to 70 wild turkeys that would periodically invade the town, destroy gardens, perch in trees, and poop on pickup trucks. The ODFW offered several solutions, but as far as we know the turkeys still rule the roost at Pilot Rock.

6. Turkey probably wasn't on the pilgrims' menu.

A recreation of the Pilgrims' first settlement

Thanks to historical records, we know for sure that the Wampanoag brought deer, and the English brought fowl—likely ducks and geese.

7. No, Ben Franklin didn't really want the turkey to be our national bird.

A drawing of Ben Franklin.
Getty / Hulton Archive / Handout

You may have heard that at least one of our Founding Fathers lobbied hard to make the turkey our national symbol instead of the noble bald eagle. That’s not quite true, but in a letter to his daughter, he did expound on the character of each, which may be where the rumor got started:

“For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.

“With all this injustice, he is never in good case but like those among men who live by sharping & robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the district. He is therefore by no means a proper emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our country…

“I am on this account not displeased that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America… He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.”

8. Alexander Hamilton was another turkey fan.

Portrait of Alexander Hamilton
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Yep, A. Ham liked turkey. In fact, he thought eating turkey was practically a god-given right, and once remarked that "No citizen of the U.S. shall refrain from turkey on Thanksgiving Day."

9. Teddy Roosevelt believed the birds were cunning prey.

Teddy Roosevelt on a hunting trip in Africa.
Getty / Hulton Archive / Stringer

Ol’ TR may have been accustomed to hunting big game, but wild turkeys held a special place in his heart. He believed they were every bit as challenging to hunt as deer. In his 1893 book Hunting Trips of a Ranchman and the Wilderness Hunter, he wrote, “The wild turkey really deserves a place beside the deer; to kill a wary old gobbler with the small-bore rifle, by fair still-hunting, is a triumph for the best sportsman.”

10. Wild turkeys have better vision than you do.

Close up of wild turkey's head

Their fantastic vision is probably one reason Teddy Roosevelt found turkeys such a challenge to hunt. They can detect motion from many yards away, have vision three times greater than 20/20, and have peripheral vision of about 270 degrees. Ours, comparatively, is only 180. And although turkeys can’t see in 3D, they can see UVA light, which helps them better identify predators, prey, mates, and food.

11. The top turkey-producing state may surprise you.

Domesticated turkeys on a farm

You may know Minnesota for producing Prince, the Mall of America, and Target. But we also have the Land of 10,000 Lakes to thank for our Thanksgiving turkeys. According to the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association, approximately 46 to 48 million turkeys are produced in Minnesota every year. In fact, it’s where the turkey that receives a presidential pardon hails from every year. Speaking of which ...

12. The presidential turkey pardon might date back to Abe Lincoln.

President Barack Obama pardons a turkey in 2011.
Getty / Mark Wilson / Staff

Officially, the tradition of the sitting president of the United States pardoning his Thanksgiving turkey dates back to John F. Kennedy, who decided to let his gift from the National Turkey Federation off the hook. But he wasn't the first president to let a turkey go free: When Abraham Lincoln’s son Tad befriended one of the birds intended for Christmas dinner in 1863, kind-hearted Abe granted it a stay of execution.

13. The first TV dinner was made up of Thanksgiving leftovers.

Thanksgiving TV dinner

In 1953, Swanson ended up with 10 train cars full of frozen turkeys—260 tons of them—when an overzealous buyer ordered too many turkeys for the holidays. Salesman Gerry Thomas solved the problem by ordering 5000 aluminum trays and setting up an assembly line of workers to scoop dressing, peas, and sweet potatoes into the compartments. Slices of turkey rounded out the meal, which Swanson sold for 98 cents. The idea was a hit: The following year, 10 million turkey TV dinners were sold.

14. National Turkey Lovers' Month isn't when you think it is.

Grilled meats on a silver tray

Everyone eats turkey in November and December, so there’s not a lot of need for extra poultry promotion during those months. If you want to celebrate National Turkey Lovers’ Month, you’ll have to do it in June with some turkey brats and burgers on the grill.

15. The turkey you're eating is probably about 18 weeks old.

Roasted turkey on a platter

That’s how long it typically takes the birds to grow to maturity, which is when they’re usually slaughtered.

16. There was almost a turkey sidekick in Pocahontas.

Loren Javier via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

At one point, Disney thought Pocahontas needed a little comic relief, so they hired John Candy to voice a wisecracking woodland fowl named Red Feather. Sadly, Candy passed away while the logistics were being worked out, so animators dropped the turkey entirely and opted for a clever raccoon named Meeko.

17. Not all turkeys gobble.

Close up shot of a wild turkey

If you hear a turkey making the distinctive noise we all associate with them, then you’re hearing a male communicating with his lady friends up to a mile away. Females make a clicking sound instead of a gobble.

18. If you don't eat turkey at Thanksgiving, you're in the minority.

A black and white photo of a family gathering around the table as the mother brings in a turkey.
Getty / Evans / Stringer

According to the National Turkey Federation, 88 percent of Americans eat turkey at Thanksgiving.

19. Turkey cravings caused a spike in KFC sales in Japan.

A large Kentucky Fried Chicken sign

When KFC opened its first stores in Japan in the 1970s, the company was surprised to find that sales soared during the holidays. The phenomenon stymied executives since most of Japan celebrates neither Thanksgiving nor Christmas. It was later discovered that foreigners craving holiday turkey had decided that KFC’s chicken was the next best thing. After the company figured this out, they played up the association with their “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” campaign—“Kentucky for Christmas.” It worked on tourists and locals alike, and today, Christmas Eve is still the highest-selling day for KFC Japan.

20. There is proper turkey terminology.

A flock of turkeys on a farm with one staring directly into the camera.
Getty / Cate Gillon / Staff

You probably know that a group of turkeys is a flock, but they can also properly be called a rafter. And should you want to call baby turkeys something a little more precise, you can call them poults.

21. The Maya used turkeys as sacrificial offerings.

A Maya tripod plate featuring a bird
Los Angeles County Museum of Art via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Archaeologists have found vases dating from 250-800 CE that have turkeys depicted on them. According to University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee art historian Andrea Stone, "turkeys were quintessential animals for feasting and for sacrificial offerings." The Maya even crafted tamales shaped like the birds.

22. During the 1970s, you could call Julia Child for turkey advice on Thanksgiving.

Julia Child in her kitchen in 1978
Lynn Gilbert via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

Even when she was at peak popularity, the famous chef refused to remove her phone number from public listings. According to friends, complete strangers would call Child on Thanksgiving to ask for advice on cooking the perfect turkey. Julia always answered the phone, and typically told callers whatever they needed to hear to get them to relax and enjoy the holiday. She even told some amateur cooks that turkey was best served cold anyway.

23. Big Bird is a turkey.

Big Bird and Elmo at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Getty / Matthew Peyton / Stringer

Well, according to Sesame Street, he’s actually a canary—but his plumage makes him a turkey. The good people at American Plume & Fancy Feather provide Sesame Street with several thousand turkey feathers per costume to make sure Big Bird looks soft and fluffy.

24. The bird is named after the country.

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey

But the whole thing was a mistake. Centuries ago, the English began to import a rather tasty bird, now known as a helmeted guinea fowl, from Madagascar. But they didn’t know it was from Africa. Because it was imported to Europe from merchants in Turkey, the English believed the birds were also Turkish.

Later, when the Spanish arrived in the New World, they discovered Meleagris gallopavo—the wild turkey. It was delicious, so they started importing it back to Europe. Europeans thought it tasted like the “turkey” guinea fowl they had been enjoying, so they called it the same thing.

25. What, exactly, is dark meat?

Roasted turkey legs on a piece of butcher paper

It’s just a different type of muscle than white meat. White meat is the result of glycogen, which doesn't need much oxygen from the blood because the muscles it fuels only require short bursts of energy. Dark meat, however, is found on wings, thighs, and drumsticks—muscles that are used for long periods of time and require more sustainable energy. It’s made dark by the proteins that convert fat into energy.

26. Turkeys have two stomachs.

A close-up photo of a turkey looking at the camera

Like all birds, turkeys don’t have teeth, so they’ve got to enlist some extra help to break down their food. Each swallowed mouthful goes first into a chamber called a proventriculus, which uses stomach acid to start softening the food. From there, food travels to the gizzard, where specialized muscles smash it into smaller pieces.

27. Eating turkey does not make you sleepy.

A group of turkeys looking at the camera
driftlessstudio/iStock via Getty Images

Turkey meat does contain the amino acid tryptophan, and tryptophan can have a calming effect. However, you’d have to eat a whole lot of turkey—and nothing else—to notice any effect. The sleepy feeling that you feel after the big meal is more likely caused by carbs, alcohol, and generally eating to excess.

28. Turkeys sleep in trees.

Wild turkeys in a tree at night via Getty Images

Due to their aforementioned deliciousness, turkeys have a lot of natural predators. As the sun goes down, the turkeys go up—into the trees. They start by flying onto a low branch, then clumsily hop their way upward, branch by branch, until they reach a safe height.

29. Both male and female turkeys have wattles.

Photo of a wild turkey
Jens_Lambert_Photography/iStock via Getty Images

The wattle is the red dangly bit under the turkey’s chin. The red thing on top of the beak is called a snood. Both sexes have those, too, but they’re more functional in male turkeys. Studies have shown that female turkeys prefer mates with longer snoods, which may indicate health and good genes.

30. Turkeys are fast on the ground, too.

A male turkey running
IMNATURE/iStock via Getty Images

You probably wouldn’t guess it by looking at them, but turkeys can really book it when they need to. We already know they’re fast in the air; on land, a running turkey can reach up to 25 mph—as fast as a charging elephant.

31. Turkeys are smart ... but not that smart.

Close-up of a trio of turkeys
BAZILFOTO/iStock via Getty Images

Turkeys can recognize each other by sound, and they can visualize a map of their territory. They can also plan ahead and recognize patterns. In other ways, they’re very, very simple animals. Male turkeys will attack anything that looks remotely like a threat, including their own reflections in windows and car doors.

32. Baby turkeys can fend for themselves.

A baby turkey
Heather M Clark/iStock via Getty Images

Baby turkeys, or poults, are precocial. This means that they’ve already got downy feathers when they’re born, and they can walk, run, and get their own food. Turkey moms defend their poults from predators, but that’s about all they need to do. The fluffy chicks are pretty self-sufficient.

What's the Difference Between Stuffing and Dressing?


For carbohydrate lovers, nothing completes a Thanksgiving meal quite like stuffing—shovelfuls of bread, celery, mushrooms, and other ingredients that complement all of that turkey protein.

Some people don’t say stuffing, though. They say dressing. In these calamitous times, knowing how to properly refer to the giant glob of insulin-spiking bread seems necessary. So what's the difference?

Let’s dismiss one theory off the bat: Dressing and stuffing do not correlate with how the side dish is prepared. A turkey can be stuffed with dressing, and stuffing can be served in a casserole dish. Whether it’s ever seen the inside of a bird is irrelevant, and anyone who tells you otherwise is wrong and should be met with suspicion, if not outright derision.

The terms are actually separated due to regional dialects. Dressing seems to be the favored descriptor for southern states like Mississippi, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Georgia, while stuffing is preferred by Maine, New York, and other northern areas. (Some parts of Pennsylvania call it filling, which is a bit too on the nose, but to each their own.)

If stuffing stemmed from the common practice of filling a turkey with carbs, why the division? According to HuffPost, it may have been because Southerners considered the word stuffing impolite, and therefore never embraced it.

While you should experience no material difference in asking for stuffing or dressing, when visiting relatives it might be helpful to keep to their regionally-preferred word to avoid confusion. Enjoy stuffing yourselves.

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