How to Plan an Ice Cream Social

How to Plan an Ice Cream Social

Use our tips to plan and put a twist on the classic ice cream social this summer.

An ice cream social is a great way to bring neighbors’ and friends’ families together for a hot summer afternoon. There’s nothing wrong with a potluck-style get-together, but our tips can help you set the bar high — with the ice cream and the party itself.

Arranging Your Spread
Before you start laying things out, reserve a larger table for toppings and ice cream and cover it with a paper tablecloth. A paper tablecloth will allow you to write directly on it and label flavors and toppings.

For a parlor-like feel, organize smaller tables around the room with checkerboard or pinstripe tablecloths. Once your tables are arranged, set up your ice cream buffet from left to right.

Cones or Jars?
Some guests love cones, others love cups. Add a little rustic charm and ditch the cups — and use Mason jars instead!

Lay out your “assembly line,” set cones on a cake stand and place the jars in a shallow bucket filled with ice to keep them cool. Tie a spoon to each jar with ribbon so your guests don’t have to search for flatware.

Ice Cream
For guests who still need to fill their cones, provide ice cream options that appeal to a range of palates. Cover the basics (vanilla, chocolate and strawberry) and be sure to include a few local favorites. It’s ideal to have an ice cream scoop for each container.

You can set out toppings in shallow jars with spoons, but you can also use bowls or teacups, too. While topping options are nearly endless, here are a few suggestions:

  • Assorted nuts
  • Chocolates
  • Peanut butter chips
  • Sprinkles
  • Crushed cookies
  • Caramel
  • Fudge
  • Syrups (strawberry, raspberry, chocolate)
  • Whipped cream

Fruits (cherries, strawberries and bananas)


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If you have adventurous guests, give them the opportunity to create something unique — try some of these toppings:

  • Ground espresso beans
  • Granola (or trail mix)
  • Caramel corn
  • Coconut flakes
  • Crispy bacon bits
  • Crushed chocolate- or yogurt-covered pretzels
  • Balsamic vinegar

Ready, Set, Decorate!
Sure, ice cream is the focal point of your party, but with a few adorable decorations, you can easily create a playful atmosphere.

Ice Cream Balloons
Create a cone shape from repurposed pages of books and magazines and tape it closed. Carefully tape a helium-filled balloon to the cone’s mouth. Hang string from the cone’s point, and ta-da, you have creative “ice cream cone” balloons!

Party Pennants
Party pennants are symbolic of cheerful celebrations, so hang them behind your spread of ice cream with a welcoming message or on the front of the serving table. If you have the time, you can even make your own custom pennants, too!

Tip: Celebrations with a big focus on food can lead to lots of post-party cleaning, but thanks to Cascade® Complete All-in-One Pacs, you can pop dishes with stuck-on food into the dishwasher and know they’ll come out clean!

Give the kids at the party something to do with these fun games.

  • Banana Split Race: List out the perfect banana split on a piece of poster board and have two players stand on either side of a table and race to see who can make the best banana split the fastest. Judge things like hot fudge drizzle, scoop size and, of course, taste!
  • Pin the Cherry on the Sundae: Put a fun twist on pin the tail on the donkey by using a cutout of a sundae instead of a donkey and a cherry instead of a tail.
  • Guess the Flavor: Blindfold guests and have them try a sample of the different flavors of ice cream and guess what it is. (Adults can play with unique flavors or with toppings for added difficulty.)

What toppings would you serve at an ice cream social? Build on our list of inspiration by leaving a comment with your ideas.

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