Becca Maffei is the Director of Tioga County Tourism and a long-time resident of Owego, NY.

It’s been hot, I’ve been home, and the other day I had an itch for some sweetness and mini road trip. So I went on a excursion around Tioga County to some of our Ice Cream stands to satisfy my cravings. There are a lot of great places to get Ice Cream around the county, and I didn’t hit them all, so if you want the full tour you can see all of the Ice Cream stands (and bakeries) here. It’s worth the drive to check out these different Ice Cream places, but I suggest you don’t try and do it all in one day like I did or you’ll probably end up zonked out at 6 p.m. with a very full, albeit satisfied, belly.

 

My first stop was the Big Dipper in Apalachin. This is busy roadside stand with a large following of locals. It’s a fun building with a big ice cream cone on the top and a hot dog on the side. I think that big hot dog nudged me into getting a one to go with one of my favorite Ice Cream classics, a vanilla shake. That, and it was also noon so I was hungry for lunch and wanted to eat something that would balance out the sugar binge I was about to go on. I got my order in no time and decided to eat in my car. In non-Covid times, Big Dipper has a playground, coin operated grocery store-type rides, a gazebo and picnic tables. Today, they were taped off, for social distancing I assume, but I’ve taken my nephews when it was open and they had a blast. The hot dog and shake were perfect, exactly what you want for an all-American lunch. I ate the hot dog in the air conditioning of my car, then enjoyed the shake as I drove out to my next location.

My next stop was the Hi Way Dairy Bar in Candor. It’s right on Route 96 on the way to Ithaca and Watkins Glen. There’s plenty of parking, but I was the only one there when I arrived. I could have taken my time to decide, they have a lot of options, but I knew that the owners also run West Candor Maple and make their own syrup. I opted for the Maple Walnut Sundae and went to sit on a picnic table under a pavilion next to the stand. One bite of ice cream and whipped cream revealed a load of crunchy, sweet nuts soaked in West Candor Maple’s syrup. It was delicious, not too syrupy, and had the added bonus of local flavor. I highly recommend it and will probably go back for another one when the weather cools because it will be a tasty fall treat. Hi Way Dairy Bar is also known for another fall specialty, pumpkin Ice Cream, that I think they start serving sometime in September. I took my time in the shade before getting back on the road.

As I headed back toward Owego going South on Route 96, I was thrilled to see that Owego Soft Serve was open! This ice cream stand was an institution and a happy childhood memory of locals for generations. It had been empty for years now and was looking shabby. Now, it’s newly painted with a cheery sign and the motto “The Sweet Spot.” It has retained it’s original quirky/retro feel and there is a lighthouse you can eat under and picnic tables. I was able to meet the owners, who are locals, and hear about how the idea came to them during quarantine. So while I was cooped up not cleaning out that closest I’ve been meaning to get to, these two friends were starting a new business. I had such a great time talking to them I forgot to get Ice Cream! But it was worth the stop and I’ll definitely go back. They are building up their menu as they learn the business, but you can still get all of the main traditional ice cream treats. I saw a pretty good looking twist go out the window and I’ll probably get that next time. I was smiling under my mask when I got back into my car.

My next stop was Ice Cream Works in Owego. This is the place to get ice cream in Owego and they have a huge menu including specialty flavors that use local ingredients and change throughout the year. I had just seen a Facebook post about them picking blueberries at a local farm, so I scanned their homemade ice cream menu and found the Blueberry Crumble. I went to the covered porch to eat. The Blueberry Crumble was absolutely lovely, with a fresh blueberry flavor and crunchy bits of granola-type toasted oats with cinnamon. It all went so well together and made me nostalgic for the smells and tastes of the baked goods we used to have during blueberry season when I was a kid. I think this might be a seasonal flavor, so get it while you can! They have other flavors like this during different times of the year, like Grandma’s Peanut Butter Cookies and Banana Nut Bread. They also have a fun flavor called NYS Potholes, and I laughed a little as I headed out to continue my travels down the roads of New York.

My last stop was in Waverly at The Jolly Farmer Ice Cream Stand. It’s right in the downtown next to the The Jolly Farmer convenience store. It’s a small stand with Perry’s hard ice cream and all of the classics like soft ice cream, sundaes, etc… I realized I hadn’t gotten a cone yet, so I went for a “small” cone of one of my Perry’s favorites, chocolate and peanut butter cup. I walked away with a heaping double scoop. There’s no place to sit and I didn’t want the inevitable melting-of-the-cone to make a mess of my car, so I took a short and pleasant walk around the block to Broad Street, which is a charming main street with some interesting stores. I got back to my car with kind of sticky hands, a stain on my shirt and a little chocolate beard that I didn’t discover until later, but it was all good. Those are the signs of having enjoyed a tasty cone on a hot day.

I took the back roads home from Waverly to Owego, enjoying the stunning countryside as I slowly fought off an ice cream coma, happy and satisfied with my day of indulgence.