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Soft-serve ice cream is having a moment in Manhattan. With two Big Gay Ice Creams, Milk Bars popping up like mushrooms, Shake Shack (home of the custard) going public, and a Dairy Queen on 14th Street, it might be hard to understand why a self-respecting swirl enthusiast should leave the city for a cone. It’s true, if you only feel like road tripping to Park Slope, you can get a spectacular maple Creemee (yes, that’s really what it’s called) at the Corner of Vermont shop on Fifth Avenue and feel like you’ve had an authentic regional experience. But if you’re up for a real road trip, classic soft-serve shacks with parking-lot ambience can be found throughout the tri-state area, pulling twists and dipping doubles through Labor Day. Here are a few favorites:

Dairy Haus (Daniel B/Foursquare)

The New York City Ballet makes its summer home in Saratoga Springs, and while it’s unlikely many ballerinas are hanging out atDairy Haus, that’s no reason for mere mortals to miss this family-run storefront just outside of town. The soft-serve flavors include Lemon Custard and Black Raspberry, and you can wash them down with a Blue Raspberry slush while sitting in the shade under Dairy Haus’s gigantic picnic tent.

(Aileen M/Foursquare)

Headed for the North Fork? Check out Snowflake in Riverhead, with its cheerful striped awnings and deluxe banana splits. Regular and nonfat soft serve options are on tap (as befits the toned summer clientele) and there’s even an ice cream “Muttwich”—made with Milk Bones—for lucky Long Island hounds.

The ice cream stand at Lenny and Joe's (Facebook)

It’s harder to find non-DQ soft-serve in Connecticut, where the towns are justly proud of their rich, New England-style hard ice cream, found in countless local parlors. But if you’re already jonesing for a hot buttered lobster roll, you can tack on a classic cone at Lenny and Joe’s Fish Tale in Madison, a onetime roadside clam stand that has become a small empire of fried fish for coastal CT. Chocolate, vanilla or swirl, only while school’s out—as nature intended.

(Chris K./Foursquare)

New Jersey, on the other hand, respects the sanctity of the soft-serve stand, and a leisurely meander through the state rewards lactose lovers handsomely. Cliff’s Homemade(formerly Cliff’s Dairy Maid) in Morris County is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, and despite its location on the side of U.S. 46, it’s not hard to see why the takeout-only operation has endured. Soft flavors include strawberry, graham cracker, peppermint, and pumpkin, and if those choices don’t motivate you to go today, take heart: Cliff’s is open all year.

(Cristhal M/Foursquare)

Polar Bear, with locations in Middletown and coastal Keansburg, is another New Jersey institution. The specialty of the house is the banana soft serve, and a request for a Creamsicle delivers a confection made of equal parts vanilla soft serve and orange sherbet. Keansburg is home to an amusement park and a water park, so schedule your ice cream consumption according to your stomach strength!

Triple soft serve at Mitsuwa (Yelp)

Finally, if all these options strike you as just a little too plain vanilla (sorry), you should swing by the Mitsuwa Marketplace in Edgewater, NJ on your way back into the city. There you’ll find re Leaf, a Japanese-style ice cream parlor offering green tea, matcha, and black sesame soft serve, with mochi and red bean toppings. The flavors (and colors) here are a far cry from Dairy Haus, but the milky bliss is the same. The road to hell is paved with good soft-serve.

Elizabeth L. Bradley is the author, most recently, of New York a short history of and guidebook to the city from Reaktion Books. She writes about NYC history, culture and food, and is quietly obsessed with vintage Dairy Queen neon.