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Best Ice Cream Social Ideas That Bring Pure Delight

Summertime is the perfect time for a party and what could be more fun than an ice cream social? Here are some ideas to make your next gathering a hit! From decorations to desserts, we’ve got you covered. Let the good times roll!!

Ice cream social ideas

When hot summer days come and the kids are out of school we are all looking for fun things to do. These old-fashioned ice cream social ideas are very simple and everyone will have a great time when planning and throwing the ice cream social.

During the month of June, my husband and I traveled to Missouri to visit our friends Mel, Dan, and family on the farm. It just happened to be hay season so we helped them bring in the hay at night and to celebrate, the next day, Mel and I created an old-fashioned ice cream social event.

We searched the farm, close to the house, for a picturesque spot to set up a small buffet, table, bench, and chairs. The perfect area just happened to be right near a beautiful tree filled with bees. But far enough away that we didn't bother each other.

Now that the furniture is in place I will walk you through each step of decorating an ice cream social along with beautiful ideas. It is truly simple and Mel has all the delicious ice cream recipes on her site if you want to go all-out homemade.

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a commission if you make a purchase using the links below. All opinions are all my own.

What is an Ice Cream Social?

Ice cream socials have a history in North America that dates back to the 18th century. The first ice cream social recorded was in 1744 in Maryland when the governor served ice cream for a dinner party. In 1802, Thomas Jefferson hosted an ice cream social at the White House.

As ice cream became more readily available in the 1800s, ice cream socials were often held by organizations such as churches and schools. In the 1860s, “ice cream gardens” became popular in society, and churches often fashioned events after them. With the availability and popularity of ice cream today, ice cream socials are very popular throughout the country.

Fun fact! The largest ice cream social in the world was held on January 30, 2019 in Italy.

Ice Cream Social Ideas

Now let's get this party started by planning your ice cream social decor. First, think about your furniture. You can use any outdoor furniture you already have or use folding chairs and tables. But if you have extra help and strong muscles place pretty furniture from inside your home outside. We decided on vintage, old-fashioned furniture.

Now let's start with a supply list.

Gather all your supplies ahead of time and place them in baskets. You might find your baskets useful for decorations, too.

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Now that we have all the supplies and all the furniture is in place, let's start setting up the buffet with goodies. Here is a step-by-step guide.

Ice Cream Social Buffet

When planning the buffet table, think of placing the food in order by what they put on first and then next. In other words place the glasses, napkins, and spoons on one end and then the ice cream and topping next. Our buffet was pretty small so to keep it simple I placed the dry toppings on the table.

First, place your runner on the buffet and then the vase or enamel milk pitcher in one corner. And then the wooden bowl filled with napkins, wooden spoons and straws.

Ice cream social buffet

This will make grabbing all the utensils easy and fresh flowers will look so pretty on the buffet.

We were fortune that Mel's farm is full of flowers out in the fields. It was so pretty!! So we snipped fresh flowers for the milk pitcher. The basket was an easy way to transport our flowers.

Picking flowers for an ice cream social

But you can use artificial flowers or fresh flowers from the grocery store. Do what is simple for you and don't stress about this part. It would also be pretty just having the milk pitcher and no flowers.

Wild flowers for an ice cream social party

Next on the buffet are the ice cream sundae glasses or whatever you plan to hold the ice cream.

Ice cream sundae glasses

If you plan for each person to serve their own ice cream, you can place the ice cream after your glasses, but we had one person serve the ice cream.

Because of that, we didn't place the cream on the buffet. Instead, the ice cream churn sat on the basket on the ground.

Old fashioned ice cream churn at a ice cream social

Next, if you are serving ice cream cones, a great way to set them on the buffet is inside a glass jar.

Ice cream cones in a large glass jar

Your Ice Cream Social Buffet is Almost Complete

If you have a marble cutting board, set it on the buffet with ice cream sauces or smaller ice cream bowls. We ended up using the mason jars we placed all the sauces in before we came outside. This is also a great place for whipped cream, fresh fruit, or maraschino cherries.

Sauce jars for an ice cream social and a sign on chalkboard

And don't forget a cute ice cream social sign. It is the little details that make all the difference.

Last, place spoons in or near the sauces and your old-fashioned ice cream buffet is set.

Ice Cream Social Tables and Chairs

If you want to provide seating as we did then add tables and chairs. We brought Mel's beautiful handmade farmhouse table outside and placed my grandma “Ranny's” wedding ring quilt on the top as a tablecloth.

Old fashioned quilt used as a table cloth for an ice cream social

You can use anything on this table. Even go without a tablecloth if you prefer. We thought it would be fun, colorful, and give that old-fashioned look so we went with an old quilt.

After you place a quilt on the table add a white table runner and then a piece of wood painted and distressed with chalk paint.

Layering linens and centerpieces on a dining table is a great way to add character and interest. But again, you don't have to add these things. I mainly used what I had laying around.

Now for a Delicious Centerpiece

Last, place your dough bowl filled with dry toppings on top. Talk about a delicious goodness centerpiece. This ice cream social centerpiece is pretty and useful all wrapped in one. If you don't have enough room on your dining table, you can always set up a separate toppings bar.

Ice cream topping charcuterie bowl

Finishing Touches

I almost forgot. If you have another basket you can set it on the side of the table on the ground with more flowers. We actually used artificial flowers in this basket. These dogwood flowers are so handy. I used them when decorating our mantel for spring.

Ice cream social ideas using old fashioned vintage decor

Again, it is the little details that make your decor so special.

Okay, now everything is set and ready. Now for the fun part! It is time to party and celebrate bringing in the hay.

Ice cream social ideas

Ice Cream Social Party Final Thoughts

We had such a good time celebrating. All the party guests got creative making their own sundae. I love this one with an ice cream cone on top. What a fun idea!

Ice cream sundae with cone on top

Jacob, Mel's son, served all the homemade ice cream and then everyone started creating their ice cream art.

Serving ice cream for an ice cream social

Everyone loved building their own ice cream sundaes with their favorite toppings. It was so much fun! Look how fun this one is with an Oreo, rainbow sprinkles, marshmallows, and a straw. I think this one has all the dry topping on it. LOL!

Here is another delicious sundae someone made.

Even Chuck their dog got in on the fun. He loves ice cream!!

Serving a dog ice cream at an ice cream social

I would say the most important thing is that everyone enjoyed the fun. Especially the little ones. They thought it was a great party.

Ice cream social party decor ideas

The best thing is that pretty much everything you will need is set so now you can relax and enjoy the party too. I do have one last thought. Consider adding a galvanized tub beside the buffet with bottled water on ice. It's a great idea if anyone gets thirsty.

You can also add coca-cola in case they want to make a coke float. We had coke floats at our old-fashioned patriotic party.

Homemade Ice Cream Recipes

Now that you have an idea for decorations, it is time for some old-fashioned ice cream recipes. Mel has you covered there with her homemade ice cream recipes. Here are a few of our favorites that will bring smiles when tasted.

She has more ice cream recipes and treats on her site. You're sure to find your favorite ice cream recipe. Go check her out at Adventures of Mel.

Now it is your turn. Are you decorating for an ice cream social? Let me know in the comments and ask any questions.

I hope this post has been helpful, encouraging, and inspirational. This old-fashioned ice cream social is simple but you can change the party theme for other ideas. By the way – National Ice Cream Day is July 17 if you need a reason to organize your own ice cream social!

Happy Decorating!