I scream you scream, we all scream....for ice cream! Ice cream is obviously a classic dessert choice, but did you know it can also be the star of the show for your next party? We'll help you harness the magic of this frozen treat with a how-to guide for the ultimate ice cream social. Read on for our tips for snazzy decor, building the best ice cream bar, tantalizing toppings, party planning extras, plus cool variations on this awesome theme. After all, life is simply better with a cherry on top.

Theme And Decor

ice cream cones on aqua background

For this party theme, we prefer to embrace all the vintage vibes and channel a mid-century ice cream parlor. Think old-school with vintage glassware, ornate silver trays, and classic patterns. Here are a few key items that will help bring your decor to the next level. We're sure your guests will think it's pretty "cool".

  • We recommend a cute chalkboard menu reminiscent of a menu at an ice cream shop. You can either buy one or craft one yourself with an old frame and chalkboard paint. Chalk markers or traditional chalk are readily available online or in local big box stores.
  • Use a mix of different spoons so not everything looks uniform. Additionally, we like a mix of different glassware that supports alternative size choices.
  • Buy or create a cute bunting or garland (hanging decor piece) to provide a colorful backdrop for your sweet treats.

Build The Ice Cream Bar

adults smiling with ice cream cones

We recommend a few basics for your ice cream social, sure to "melt" any party goer's heart. Start with the classic flavor winners, like vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ice cream. Ramp up the gourmet factor and channel your inner Martha Stewart with our homemade version. Then, include a couple sorbet options for those who prefer a dairy-free treat or something on the lighter side. We also love some more show-stopping flavor stars, such as sea salted caramel, mint chocolate chip, cookies, and cream, or birthday cake. These decadent choices offer so many opportunities to mix and match for some super sundaes. Make sure to include both cones and dishes so guest have two serving vessel options. You'll also want multiple ice cream scoops on hand, preferably one for each flavor of ice cream.

Toppings Time

ice cream in glass dishes

And now for the main event...the toppings for your transcendent ice cream experience. Let's start with the sauces. We suggest a couple classics like hot fudge and caramel to start. For more flavor punch, consider a fresh fruit with homemade syrup option; strawberry, raspberry, or blackberry would each be amazing choices. Without a doubt, please include whipped cream. Earn extra points if it's made-from-scratch.

Next, let's focus on the candy toppings. We like a basic choice like sprinkles, rainbow, and chocolate if you have space. Crumbled candy bars are a pretty sweet topping too; our favorites are Twix, Snickers, and Kit Kat but feel free to mix and match anything you crave. Alternatively, loose hand-held candy like Reese's Pieces and M&Ms require no preparation, so consider those too. Gummy bears provide a nostalgic chewy option as well. We also love dried fruit for a healthier toppings route for diet-minded guests. After all, it's basically nature's candy, right?

Finally, let's hone in on some other delicious toppings. Crumbled cookie dough is sure to be a crowd-pleaser, as well as crumbled Oreo sandwich cookies. Chocolate or butterscotch chips could work too; we even love a mint-flavored chip choice. Consider fresh fruit like berries too, especially if you didn't include dried fruit or the fruit syrup mentioned above. And of course, no ice cream social is complete without cherries, so they are a must to include.

For set up purposes, you will need bowls or containers for each topping, plus signage that shares what everything is. A spoon in each container is vital too. Be prepared to answer questions about dietary allergens as well.

Party Planning Extras

ice cream bar with cones, scoops, toppings

Now that your ice cream set up has been planned, let's not neglect some other small items that will support that main event. Choose cute on-theme invitations to spread the word; we love Minted or Shutterfly online for maximum ease and cuteness factor. You can even craft your own, using supplies from local craft stores. Make sure to have paper goods that support your theme, like vintage-patterned napkins and small plates.

We recommend at least one activity too, so there's more going on at your party. Consider an ice cream shaped piƱata; since there will already be enough sweet goodness around, we suggest you fill it with small toys or gift cards to the local ice cream shop rather than more candy. Another cool idea is to create an apron decorating station. Start with small white aprons for kiddos or larger ones for adults, and provide puffy paint and /or cloth markers to help spur some creativity. Plus, as the hostess or host, it would be an extra kitschy touch for you to wear an on-theme apron for the party, especially if you decorated it yourself beforehand.

One other factor to think about is what space you use for the party. Obviously hosting at home is easy, if you have a buffet table large enough to hold all the ingredients for your ice cream social; if not, you can always borrow one from a local renting vendor or friend. Alternatively, if a nearby restaurant would allow you to bring in outside items, private party rooms are a great option. Oftentimes hotels have rooms to host functions, or there are numerous venues that would work too, depending on your area. We recommend doing your research to develop a pros and cons list to help you make your event space decision.

Variations

bright colored ice cream in cups on wooden background

We love the basic ice cream social idea, but we've also come up with some extra ways to celebrate. Read on for our favorite alternatives! There's sure to be one for each and every occasion.

Float On

Instead of focusing on ice cream cones or sundaes, consider stepping up your game with an ice cream float party. To continue with the vintage theme, serve Coca Cola, root beer, and red cherry-flavored refreshments. We'd love to provide them in clear glass bottles that look like old-fashioned soda containers. Striped swirly straws would be especially cute for this option.

Booze Is Better

Rather than using our kid-friendly party template above, contemplate a boozier bash with some age appropriate buddies. Take that float idea a step further with champagne or bubbly floats. As for toppings, consider apple bourbon syrup or lavender prosecco syrup to really hit it out of the park. Additionally, you could do a wop (to soak fruit in alcohol) then serve it as a topping for ice cream; we especially like strawberries infused with vodka and pineapple spiked with rum. Delicious!

Modern

To change it up from an old-school ice cream parlor, an alternative is to choose a more modern theme. Make sure to use paper goods, invitations, and glassware that are more minimalistic with clean lines and neutral colors to accomplish this.

My Pie

For an extra charming addition, add single serving baked pies to your ice cream fete. It would be a cool take on "a la mode" which means served with a scoop of ice cream. This is an ideal option to add onto the vintage theme too, since apple pies are very in tune with classic Americana. We recommend doing at least a couple flavor options, like the aforementioned apple plus a berry or mini pumpkin pie if it's holiday or fall season.

Frozen Fun

Our final option for ice cream social ideas is less messy than all other alternatives. Instead of creating treats at the party, you could pre-make some frozen goodness beforehand and serve a big spread of choices. We are thinking ice cream sandwiches, ice cream cupcakes, ice cream cakes, popsicles, etc. There are so many great recipes online, some that even add booze to frozen treats like this Negroni popsicles guide. We call that a win-win.

We hope you've thoroughly enjoyed our exploration of the ultimate ice cream social. Whichever direction you choose, it's sure to be a super "sweet" time.

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