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Gelato + Frozen Yogurt + Ice Cream Shops in San Diego North County (Guide)

Gelato + Ice Cream Shops in San Diego North County

Ice scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream, and gelato, and sorbet!

All these chilly sweet treats have one thing in common: We love to enjoy them! But there are significant and/or subtle differences between them, so before we tell you where to get any and all of them, let’s first define what each one is.

ICE CREAM – The USDA requires this frozen favorite to contain at least 10% milkfat (which is exactly what it sounds like: fat from milk). It must also get churned during freezing, and (surprise!), be sweet.  That’s basically it!

GELATO – “Gelato” means “ice cream” in Italian, but the two are not exactly the same.   What makes gelato different from ice cream?” It comes down to three factors: fat, air, and serving temperature. While gelato has a custard base like its American cousin, it also contains less milk fat and has less air churned into it during freezing, which makes its texture denser. Also, because gelato is traditionally served at a slightly warmer temperature than ice cream, it feels a bit softer and looks glossier.

SORBET – This frozen delight contains just fruit and sugar—no dairy. It’s often churned in an ice cream maker, which makes it scoopable but not creamy. Restaurants use sorbet as a palette cleanser during multi-course meals because its intense fruit flavor is extra refreshing.

Now that we’ve got that all squared away, here’s our guide to Ice Cream, Gelato, and Sorbet Shops. Some carry only one version of our frozen favorites, while others scoop out all three.

Gelato + Ice Cream Shops: North County San Diego Coastal
(Del Mar to Oceanside)

Baked Bear

Original-recipe ice cream sits at the heart of each Baked Bear sandwiches, which are held together by fresh-baked cookies, brownies, or even donuts. The Baked Bear has over a dozen original-recipe cookies and ice cream flavors, giving guests a chance to mix and match to find their favorite combination. Before they’re served, the sandwiches can be rolled through toppings ranging from Fruity Pebbles to Oreo crumble, giving them an Instagram-worthy touch.

Gaia Gelato

Cousins, Paola Richard and Christine Amorosa of Italy have been making gelato in Carlsbad for several years now, delighting all with the product of their authentic process. The first thing you’ll encounter at Gaia Gelato in Carlsbad is a case filled with batches of gelato, with names posted in English and Italian. The cousins have cleverly snuck in a delicious way to learn some Italian. They also make the most delicious sorbets, including a strawberry sorbet made from local strawberries and Carlsbad Alkaline Water. Beyond the gelato counter is a large window in the back of the shop looking into the kitchen where customers are invited to watch the age old process of gelato being made.

Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream

Just before you hit the Encinitas sign going into the downtown district of this seaside town, you’ll see a crowd lined up outside of a shop on the right. That’s the easiest way to find Handel’s, one of the most popular ice cream shops in North County. What’s not as easy to find is parking. Take your time… it’s worth the wait. Besides the creamiest cones with crazy flavors like Graham Central Station, S’mores, Dat Brownie Dough, and Vanilla Caramel Brownie, Handel’s also makes scrumptious shakes.

Nana and Pop Pop’s

This old-fashioned sweet shop is tucked in the row of shops at Oceanside Harbor Village… the perfect spot to stop when you want to do some wandering around the water with a cone.  Nana and Pop Pop’s sells other sweets, too, just in case the Bubble Gum Ice Cream isn’t enough to satisfy that sweet tooth.

Sub Zero Carlsbad

Sub Zero Ice Cream customers can choose a base ice cream or yogurt, pick flavors, and then add mix-ins. Then the creation is blasted with liquid nitrogen at 321 degrees below zero which makes it more creamy than normal ice cream.


Pappalecco takes their commitment to heritage and authenticity very seriously. Their gelato is made using time-honored Tuscan traditions. They’ve spent thousands of hours learning from generations of artisans, melding ancient techniques to modern. They keep their gelatos simple by sticking to five main ingredients. They’re also committed to a sustainable way of doing business, sourcing their ingredients as close to home as possible. Gelatos are made daily from scratch using only the finest ingredients. Taste a cup and you’ll know that’s the truth.

Red Cup Yogurt

Self Serve Yogurt Shop that puts you in complete control. They offer a variety of 10+ flavors including those that are non-fat, low-fat, lactose free and no sugar added, with 50 toppings to choose from.

Ocean Rainbow Ice Cream Shop

A Family business dedicated to bringing all the natural and good flavors of Mexican home made ice cream.

JR’s Hawaiian Shaved Ice

Memorial Day to Labor Day & Saturdays before and after!

Swirlicious Yogurt

Swirlicious Yogurt was created as an unique place for friends and family to gather and enjoy a healthy dessert that is not only fun to create but a joy to eat.


Yocadia Creamery

Offering high quality, premium soft serve in Leucadia.

JoJo’s Creamery

Ice cream, chocolate chip cookies, waffle cones, and sauces all made from scratch!

Hokulia Shave Ice

Yogurt 101

Located in the heart of Solana Beach on the iconic Highway 101, Yogurt 101 is a favorite refreshing treat and dessert stop for both locals and visitors alike.

Linda’s Yogurt & Deli

Great sandwiches, fat free yogurts, fresh fruit smoothies, Dreyers Ice cream, Coffee Drinks.

Moonlight Yogurt Cafe

Seaside Yogurt

Healthy and delicious self-serve frozen yogurt! Help yourself to some fresh and tasty toppings!

Gelato + Ice Cream Shops: North County San Diego Inland

(Rancho Bernardo to Escondido)

Dolce Italia

Chef Salvo brings his mouth-watering desserts and gelato recipes straight from his childhood and a Sicilian seaport village named Porticello to this spot in San Marcos. Gelato machines churn out amazing homemade flavors on-site. Dolce Italia is a hidden gem in an unassuming strip mall that you absolutely must visit and judge for yourself.


This little shop is tucked away just off of Grand in the quaint downtown district of Escondido.

Here, patrons will find artisan gelato made fresh everyday using local ingredients. They’ve also got great espresso, in case you want to turn your gelato into an affogato. EscoGelato also serves baked goods and paninis too!

Lappert’s Ice Cream

Lappert’s, a California-based family owned group of ice cream shops, has been around since the early eighties. The dream and hard work of Walter Lappert continues with his son, Michael Lappert, the president of Lappert’s Ice Cream. Michael, also an avid traveler, brings to the company the same obsession to quality. The opening of the California manufacturing facility in 1984 made it possible for the folks to have Lappert’s super premium ice cream and also taste the great tropical flavors from the rest of the world; look for flavors like Manila Mango, Costa Rican Plantain Cajeta, Mexican Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl, and Philippine Macapuno Peach Sorbet.

Narvalo Ice Cream and Gelato

Where else can you find Narwhal Nachos or Smoothies made with Red Bull? We challenge you to find another. Better yet, why not just go check out Narvalo in Vista? With a long list of specialty sundaes served next to several sugar-free options, there’s something for everyone at this sweet shop!


Specializing in fresh, made-to-order ice cream using liquid nitrogen.

Bon Bon Frozen Yogurt

Pepper Tree Frosty

Longtime family-run joint selling burgers, fries, shakes & ice cream from a walk-up window.

Yogurt & Yummies

Angelito’s Fruteria Y Neveria

Yogurt Stop

Fruttos Yogurt

Quality yogurt never compromised by cost.

Yogurt Heaven

Yogurt Heaven gives you the freedom to be your own boss and create your very own frozen yogurt masterpiece.

Carmelita’s Snack

Ice cream, ice shaved, tostilocos, diablitos, etc.

FroYo Love

Rita’s of Escondido

Your Turn

Do you know of any missing businesses that should be included in this guide? Comment below. 

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Sugar Jones: Sugar Jones has been blogging about life since 2008. She has contributed to various local news stations for lifestyle segments, speaking about tech, social media, travel, food, and family.