Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Iconic Eateries of Fredericksburg, Part 2: Carl’s

It doesn’t really matter to me if the groundhog sees his shadow. The real first harbinger of spring in Fredericksburg is the annual re-opening of Carl’s ice cream on President’s Day weekend. This year, Carl’s opened on Friday, Feb. 15, and we went to check out the scene the next day. There was a healthy crowd there at around 1:00 on Saturday, despite the fact that it wasn’t really ice cream weather.

Newcomers to Fredericksburg sometimes wonder what all the fuss is about. They claim that Carl’s ice cream isn’t “the best soft ice cream ever.” I understand that feeling. I grew up with Carvel and Mister Softee, and I know that every town of any size across America has a special place for ice cream. A trip to visit family in South Glens Falls often includes a trip to Martha’s, and the ice cream there is every bit as good as Carl’s. But what newcomers might miss is that it’s as much about the cultural experience as it is about the ice cream. On any busy Saturday night, it’s almost a sure thing that I will see familiar faces in line. Carl’s has been around since 1947, and even as Fredericksburg grows in an ever-widening circle of suburban development, a trip to Carl’s is still a throwback to a simpler time. So don’t worry about comparing it to other ice cream stands, just go on a warm summer night (or a cold February day) and soak up a little local flavor.

The menu is pretty simple: Vanilla, chocolate, strawberry. Cones, sundaes, shakes, slush floats. No sprinkles, no whipped cream, no chocolate dipped cones.

The hardworking Carl's staff. These kids are fast.

Carl's has been featured on the Food Network and PBS, and is a Virginia Historic Landmark.

The object of our affection.


Nathan said...


I just started up as a way to centralize and aggregate (syndicate) all Fredericksburg area blogs. The goal is to give exposure to the burgeoning Fredericksburg area blog scene, much in the way that Waldo Jaquith has done for Charlottesville at

There's a contact link on the home page underneath the picture if you have a problem with it. I went ahead and already included your site for testing purposes, but it's really easy to delete should you desire to not participate.

Nathan (Head Fred)

Roger Carr said...

I have enjoyed Carls for almost 25 years. It still amazes me when I see a long line of people anticipating ice cream in cold weather. Actually I'm not surprised. I am sometimes one of those in line.

Suzi said...

When we first moved to the F'burg area, we were not impressed with Carl's. We tried it once and didn't go back for over a year. Seven years later, we absolutely love the place! We are in line on the day it reopens in February. The last time we were there a week or so ago, we stood around to eat our ice cream and by the time we were finishing up the line had snaked around a few steps from where we were. We seriously considered getting back in line for a second go. :) We love Carl's!