There was a time – centuries of human existence in fact – that no one alive had ever tasted ice cream.
Seriously, Julius Caesar lived and died never knowing the joys of a waffle cone.
Sure the history books will remember the deeds of Moses, Alexander the Great and Charlemagne.
You could get a Rocky Road cone or a bowl of Butter Pecan or (gasp) a bucket of Cookie Dough ice cream whenever you wanted.
So when you get to the afterlife and Charlemagne starts bragging just ask him if he ever had – in his life – anything as wonderful as a simple sugar cone with two scoops of vanilla and watch him weep tears of bitter regret.
What is the origin of ice cream?
The earliest forms of ice cream appeared in the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) but it wasn’t even good … they used flour and an extract harvested from evergreen trees.
When Ben & Jerry’s comes out with Buffalo Tree Sap, the Tang Emperors can talk. Until then? Miss me with that camphor-flavored stuff.
The first official “ice cream” didn’t arrive until the mid to late 1600s when a man named Antonio Latini who was working for a Spanish Viceroy in Naples wrote down his recipe for sorbetto and changed the world.
I wonder if we brought Antonio to the Smoky Mountains what he’d think of our ice cream shops. If, of course, his mind managed to survive the hellish time warp and subsequent terror of arriving roughly 400 years into the future.
The safe money would be he’s a Neapolitan kind of guy.
Today ice cream is a wonder.
Sure you can enjoy the simplicity of a vanilla cone or the pure joys of a well-made chocolate shake. But friends, ice cream technology has advanced massively since the days of my Northern Indiana youth when a cone at Atz was considered the height of dessert luxury.
Today’s ice cream parlors and creameries provide sensory overload with a stunning array of options.
In a tourist town like Pigeon Forge, it’s an ice cream arms race with each place either trying to win with shock and awe or by conscientiously objecting to the creamery war by going completely retro and trying to win with simplicity.
Whether you like dozens of options or a couple of flavors, here’s our list of the best ice cream shops in Pigeon Forge.
5. Mad Dog’s Creamery and Donuts
Oh, man. If Charlemagne is mad about ice cream, wait until he finds out about donuts!
I like Mad Dog’s for a lot of reasons.
First, the ice cream is delicious. Second, they have donuts and funnel cakes. Third, the URL on their website looks like Maddog Screamery, which makes me inordinately happy.
What does this creamery have? A full selection of hand-dipped premium ice cream, soft serve, sundaes, banana splits, milkshakes and more.
They offer 24 unique flavors of ice cream and a myriad of options of flavors and toppings.
Not sure what to order? Try one of our personal favorite flavors: Smoky Mountain Fudge or Strawberry Cheesecake.
As a bonus, Mad Dog’s Creamery is also dog-friendly with doggie treats, toys and water bowls on site.
Mad Dog’s has two locations in the Smokies, one in Pigeon Forge and the other just outside of downtown Gatlinburg.
4. Buzzed Bull Creamery
This is one of several perplexingly named creameries in Pigeon Forge.
Look, I don’t care how much that bull is buzzed, he ain’t giving no cream.
However, luckily they serve liquor-infused concoctions here so after a Banana Split or two, nobody really cares much about the name.
Buzzed Bull is a chain with restaurants in ten states including two in Sevier County with Gatlinburg and Knoxville locations on the horizon.
Buzzed Bull is an adult-friendly ice cream establishment.
To paraphrase Nick from “It’s a Wonderful Life” they serve hard milkshakes for hard men. Well, not really.
But you can get each of their offerings “buzzed” which means with booze.
They also have non-buzzed options for the kids or those who don’t want their vanilla shake with a shot of cinnamon whiskey.
And like any other creamery, they have a variety of bases, flavors and toppings.
They also have a menu of options that come with a suggested buzz. For instance, you can get Death By Chocolate with or without Chocolate Vodka or Banana Split with Cherry Vodka.
3. Old Mill Creamery
More of your classic ice cream parlor than the modern palace of ice cream wonders, the Old Mill Creamery serves old-fashioned ice cream – not Tang-Dynasty old-fashioned, but old-fashioned – in a variety of flavors with fresh ingredients.
This is definitively the closest thing you can find to homemade ice cream in the Smokies.
You can get a cup, a sugar cone, a cake cone, a shake, malt or float. If you’re feeling daring, you can get a housemade waffle cone or bowl.
Pro-tip: Go for the sugar cones.
Signature flavors include Oat Mill Cream Pie, Banana Pudding, Blueberry Pie, Vanilla Bean, Salted Caramel and Whiskey Ribbon.
And if your sweet tooth finds itself craving more, be sure to stop by Old Mill Candy Kitchen while you’re in the area.
2. Marble Slab Creamery
The ice cream shop so nice, they built it twice.
There are two Marble Slabs in Pigeon Forge – one at either end of the strip.
Theoretically, if traffic was bad enough, you could eat at one – take a couple of hours cruising the strip – and then eat at the other. I don’t recommend it for reasons involving both health and sanity, but it COULD be done.
For the record, the one on the Gatlinburg side of the strip is far better reviewed.
This is as advertised, small-batch ice cream, hand-blended with tons of mix-in options on a cold marble slab in front of your very eyes.
They also offer a variety of ice cream cakes, sweet innovations and classic ice cream sundaes.
1. Curl de la Crème
At Curl de la Crème you get delicious ice cream and a show!
Who needs scoops of ice cream when you can have rolls?
They turn each order from liquid cream to ice cream right before your eyes, flatten it out on a cold thin sheet and curl it instead of using a traditional scoop.
And unlike the Tang Dynasty, there’s no tree-sap-infused concoction forced into metal tubes and sunk into icy waters.
Instead, you choose a variety of cookies, fruits, cereal and nut-based pastes (which taste better than they sound) which are mixed into one of three ice cream flavors.
You can choose a waffle bowl, a waffle taco or a Krazy Kremewich. Look, I want you to order what you want, but if you order a nut-based paste into a Krazy Kremewich, I’m not going to be held responsible if you spend the rest of the evening being teased by your dirty-minded friends.
A variety of mix-ins include things like apple pie, cheesecake, fruit and Fruity Pebbles. There are sugar-free and vegan base options as well.
Finally, you can round out your dessert with a variety of toppings that make for a myriad of possible combinations. Honestly, this is ice cream paradise.
What do you think are the best ice cream places in Pigeon Forge? What’s your go-to when you are in the mood for a cool treat on your Smoky Mountain vacation? Let us know in the comments below.