Ask any New Yorker what the city's best ice cream is, and the two words you'll hear most are: Ample Hills. The Brooklyn-founded company (their name derives from a Walt Whitman poem about the borough) has several locations around the city... plus one at the Walt Disney World resort. For the past two Summers, the company has offered a challenge: visit all NYC locations in one day, and join the ranks of their illustrious Hillionaires Club (with glory and swag as your prizes). And for the past two Summers, I have completed this challenge.
I love challenges like this-- such as the recent Wave Walk-- because they encourage New Yorkers to explore their city in fun ways.
Of the 7 NYC Ample Hills locations, the hardest to reach is their summer pop-up at Riis Beach, way out on the Rockaway peninsula in Queens. I began my journey, this year with a friend, around 11am in lower Manhattan, where I boarded a ferry to Rockaway Beach (*cue Ramones song here*). This hour-long ferry ride has some scenic views...
We then take the complimentary shuttle bus from the ferry over to Riis Beach. At stop #1, we were given our Tour de Hills card which would be stamped and signed by an employee at each stop after purchasing one scoop. I opt for the location's exclusive flavor, the cherry lime rickey sorbet.
From here, we board the Q35 bus from the Rockaways up to Brooklyn. Once we reach that borough, there will be less distance to travel. In Brooklyn, we board a subway at Brooklyn College up to Prospect Heights, where we make our second stop at the company's original location. At this point, it is about 2pm. Here, I get their exclusive flavor, the Commodore (salted honey vanilla ice cream with homemade honeycomb candy and chocolate-covered potato chips.)
For the remainder of the Brooklyn locations, we walked from one to the other. We started by walking down historic Flatbush Avenue, through downtown Brooklyn, to the new Dekalb Market Hall, where Ample Hills is one of many vendors. Their exclusive flavor here is Harry & Eigel's Marbled and Malted (chocolate malted ice cream with crushed malt balls and chunks Juniors cheesecake).
From here, we wandered past Borough Hall (built in 1848!) and wander through NYC's first historic district... Brooklyn Heights. I showed my friend Steve the historic Plymouth Church, which under the leadership of preacher Henry Ward Beecher, was a key abolitionist site in the mid-1800s. We then take the newly reopened Squibb Bridge down to Brooklyn Bridge Park. At the park's Pier 5, we find one of Ample Hill's other seasonal shops. Their special flavor? The Coffee of Kings.
From the park, it is a half-hour walk over to their flagship Gowanus location, where all of their ice cream is also produced. Their special flavor pays homage to the nearby Gowanus Canal, which is one of the most polluted canals in the United States. (Believe it or not, that "honor" is helping draw lots of new residents and development to the area).... This flavor-- 'It Came from Gowanus'-- is salted dark chocolate ice cream with hazelnut crack cookies topped with white chocolate pearls and orange-scented brownies.
Finally, we were finished with Brooklyn and rewarded ourselves with a long (and air-conditioned) subway ride to Manhattan. We get off the train at Times Square where we walked over to Hells Kitchen, to the Gotham West food hall. This is the final stretch. Their special flavor is the Hells Kitchen Sink (dark chocolate and Guinness extra stout with chili-spiced brownies and toffee bars). This was the only exclusive flavor that was a mixed bag.
One more to go! From Hells Kitchen, we walked down to 34th St and headed down the High Line. This 1.5-mile long park is just the breather we need before our final stop. At the end of the Line (literally), we enter the Meatpacking District, where we encounter our 7th stop of the day... Ample Hills' location next to Bubby's on Gansevoort Street. At this point, it is about 7pm. I go, of course, for their exclusive flavor, 'Floating Along the High Line' (root beer ice cream with mini-marshmallows and chocolate sprinkles). Here, the employees validate our cards and present us with our prize pack.
This was followed by a subway ride home with a stomach full of ice cream. See you again next Summer, Ample Hills! In the meantime, if anyone knows of any other crazy NYC challenges, send them my way. There's nothing more I enjoy doing on my days off from touring than racing from one end of New York to the other!