I recently read that Americans eat 6 gallons of ice cream per person per year. Over 100 million of those gallons are produced by the world’s largest family owned and operated ice cream company- Blue Bunny- which is located in the small north-western Iowa town of LeMars. In fact, there is more ice cream made in the city of Le Mars than any other one location on earth, making Le Mars, Iowa the Ice Cream Capital of the World®!
Life is Sweet
The city’s slogan, Life is Sweet, refers to more than just ice cream. When we visited we found a friendly town filled with public parks and plenty to keep our family occupied. Cleveland Park was a favorite for its massive wooden “castle” play set while the skate park was filled with the teen crowd.
Our visit coincided with the city’s annual Ice Cream Days festival. We played games at the Cone-ival, listened to live music, wandered through art in the park and enjoyed a terrific parade – complete with the best parade treats ever: Blue Bunny Bomb Pops and chocolate milk courtesy of Land O Lakes Milk which is also located in LeMars.
Visiting the Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlor
Just days before the Ice Cream festival began, Blue Bunny opened their new Ice Cream Parlor in downtown LeMars. Ice cream fans from across the country stood in lines a block long to enter the historic George E. Pew building. Part old-time soda fountain, part museum, the Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlor serves up delicious treats, interesting history, and even a lovely gift shop for that perfect ice cream souvenir.
My girls were excited to sit at the soda fountain and watch as massive ice cream treats were created. Be sure to come with an appetite because even the single scoop ice cream cones are huge! After finishing your treat be sure to wander up the grand staircase. Here you’ll find Blue Bunny memorabilia and interactive displays. More tables and comfortable couches are here, too. If the meeting room isn’t being used take a peek inside- it has a full kitchen that any cook would love to have. The meeting room is available for parties or business- with snacks from the parlor downstairs, of course!
Eating in LeMars
We follow the advice of locals when we travel and everyone we spoke to said we had to visit Bob’s Drive-In. Many raved about the cheese curds, “They just taste like they’re made with love”, while others said we had to eat a “tavern”, the eastern Iowa name for a loose meat sandwich, and still more said a visit wasn’t complete without a Bob Dog- a natural casing hot dog served with loose meat on top. We tried them all. There is something special about the cheese curds and the snap of the natural casing on the hot dog, well, that’s a pleasure too few people know exists. Another pleasure? My family ate well for just over $20.
We enjoyed lunch the next day at another recommended eaterie, Habitue Coffeehouse and Creperie. Located just across the street from the Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlor, you’ll find so many tempting treats on the menu it can be difficult to choose. I love that many sandwich options can be rolled in a crepe; the Raspberry Jalapeno Turkey crepe I had was incredible. And the selection of beautiful cupcakes gave the ice cream parlor a run for my dessert dollars. The interior is beautiful, with dark wood tables, comfortable chairs and couches scattered throughout the restaurant’s two stories. A lovely patio off the rear of the building is inviting on a lovely summer day.
LeMars, Iowa is a welcoming weekend destination or a terrific rest stop if you’re passing through northwest Iowa.
Photos by Jody Halsted.Jody Halsted is a proud Iowan who
loves sharing the wonders of her state,
and the Midwest, at her site Family Rambling.
Disclosure: I would like to thank Blue Bunny
for inviting my family to the grand opening
of their new ice cream parlor.