I scream, you scream for free ice cream.
The first day of spring is coming up on Monday, and with it comes a flurry of ice cream news.
Locally owned and chain ice cream shops are offering free ice creams on several days — two on the actual first day of spring and others on different days.
• Klavon’s: The Strip District ice cream shop is the earliest store to offer a freebie this season. Klavon’s is giving a free small Shamrock milkshake (mint-chocolate ice cream and milk) to each customer on St. Patrick’s Day this Friday. Info: klavonsicecream.com.
• Rita’s: Get a free Italian ice at any Pittsburgh-area Rita’s location on Monday. There are too many local Rita’s locations to list, but all are participating in this promotion, so there’s no need to call ahead.
This is Rita’s 25th anniversary. The chain expects to give out more than a million free Italian ices nationwide. Locally, Jeff Navarro, owner of the Bethel Park store, said he expects to give out between 2,000 and 4,000 free cups of Italian ice, depending on the weather.
“It’s an annual tradition for some families,” he said. “It means spring is coming.”
He has owned the Bethel Park location for seven years, and when the first day of spring is a warm one, he’s seen the line for free ice stretch through his parking lot and into the lot next door.
Rita’s new Italian ice flavors this year include Twizzler and Hawaiian Punch, plus they’re bringing back an old favorite – Peeps – for the spring/Easter season. Details and store locations: ritasice.com.
• Dairy Queen: Many Dairy Queen stores nationwide will offer each customer a free small vanilla soft-serve cone on Monday, the first day of spring. The chain is requesting, but not requiring, donations to the Children’s Miracle Network in return.
The Pittsburgh area has numerous Dairy Queen shops. To find your closest shop, go to dairyqueen.com. It is recommended that customers call their local Dairy Queens ahead of time to check whether they are participating in this promotion. Dairy Queen shops located in malls will not participate.
Carolyn Fuchs, co-owner of the Verona Dairy Queen, said last year was the shop’s first year to participate in Free Cone Day.
“Oh my goodness, we had people coming in buses,” she said, noting she’s expecting a busy day again, especially if the weather is good.
• Ben & Jerry’s: Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shops are holding “Free Cone Day” this year on April 4. Free scoops will be available from noon to 8 p.m. Customers can get a scoop of any flavor on a cone or in a cup.
The local Ben & Jerry’s shop is in the Cultural District at 936 Penn Ave., Downtown.
There’s even good news for the lactose intolerant. Ben & Jerry’s debuted non-dairy flavors last year, and this year there are three new ones: Caramel Almond Brittle, Coconut Seven Layer Bar and Cherry Garcia. Only the Caramel Almond Brittle is available in Scoop Shops; the others you have to buy in pints at the grocery store. Information: benjerry.com.
• Carvel: Carvel ice cream is sold in the Auntie Anne’s store at Tanger Outlets in Washington. Customers can get a free junior cone on a specified day this spring, but the date hasn’t yet been announced, so keep an eye out. Information: carvel.com or tangeroutlet.com.
• Handel’s: Although Handel’s hasn’t announced a specific day for free cones, you can get a free cone when you sign up for their e-newsletter. You’ll get an e-mailed coupon for a free cone, but you must use it within 48 hours.
Handel’s has four area locations: West Mifflin, McCandless, Beaver Falls and Hermitage. To sign up: handelsicecream.com/eme.html.
Rebecca Sodergren: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @pgfoodevents.