Chillin’ at Leopold’s

When people ask me for a list of places they absolutely must visit in Savannah, Leopold’s Ice Cream is always on that list. One visit, and you’ll see the magic for yourself.

In Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, there are places in America that hold real magic, such as House on the Rock. While Savannah is never mentioned in the book or the TV show, I still feel like Leopold’s should’ve been added. Every time I visit, something new and amazing happens. Plus, their ice cream is just so good! I don’t know what old god the Leopold Family made a deal with to have ice cream that delicious, but it’s worth it.

The black marble soda fountain and wooden back bar are original to the first location.

The ice cream shop was originally opened by the Leopold Family in 1919. It’s now owned and operated by Stratton and Mary Leopold. The shop you see today is in a different location, but the family tradition of quality ice cream continues. Aside from some of the fixtures in the shop, another holdover from past years is their signature flavors like Tutti Frutti and Rum Bisque. My personal favorite flavors are Lemon Custard (perfect for cooling off on hot days) and two seasonal flavors: Rose Petal Cream (the lightest, creamiest floral taste) and Lavender (which strangely tastes like the milk left in the bottom of the bowl after you finish your Fruity Pebbles).

Yes, they have seasonal flavors, and they aren’t what you’d expect. They offer Guinness flavored ice cream in March, Spicy Mocha in July, and Sugar Plum Fairy in December. There are loads more to try and even vegan and gluten-free options.

One of my favorite Fourth of July traditions involves Leopold’s. I go for an evening run downtown right before the fireworks on River Street. If I time it just right, there isn’t a line. I run in, take a picture with the Captain America: The First Avenger poster, and grab a scoop of whatever strikes my fancy before heading to my secret fireworks-watching spot. Unfortunately, that won’t happen this year. The fireworks have been cancelled due to COVID-19.

Stratton Leopold was a unit production manager on Captain America. Also, you may not be able to read it, but my shirt says, “on your left.” I admit I’m a nerd.

If you’re wondering why there’s a movie poster in Leopold’s, well, there’s actually a lot of film memorabilia. Stratton Leopold’s other job is in the film industry. He’s been a producer, a production manager, and a bunch of other things on movies you may have heard of. He has posters, clapboards, props, and pictures all over the ice cream shop.

You can see how Stratton’s work with productions pays off every August for the annual Birthday Block Party! This year marks 101 years in business for Leopold’s Ice Cream. I’m not sure if the pandemic will mean postponing the celebration or not, but if you have a chance to go the party, do it. Broughton Street in front of the shop is closed to traffic. There’s dancing, music, a car show, a photo booth, games, contests, and tons of ice cream!

When I say Leopold’s is a magical place, I really do mean it. There are special moments that only seem to happen there. Back in my news producer days, I was there with a reporter who was interviewing Mary Leopold. Mary would stop every so often to check in on customers. Towards the end of the interview, we ended up outside where a group of ladies, all wearing sparkly green cowboy hats, were sitting with their ice cream. Mary asked where they were visiting from, and they told her they were all from Ireland. They had seen Leopold’s on a travel show and made it a point to stop there. Mary thanked them for coming, and then this group of Irish women started singing. I don’t remember what song it was, but I remember being entranced. It felt as if I had entered a dream. I’ve lived in my fair share of tourist attractions, but I never experienced the same sense of happiness I felt coming from Mary and these women. When I think about Leopold’s, I think about that moment. There’s a special magic there if you look.

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