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Summer is the perfect season to host an ice cream sundae bar. This how-to guide has all my best tips and ideas for throwing a backyard ice cream social!

An image of a woman scooping ice cream with a bunch of toppings nearby for an ice cream sundae bar.

How to Host an Ice Cream Sundae Bar

School’s out and summer’s here! Let’s have some fun!

We really love to throw parties around here. And one of my favorite things to do when hosting a party is a build-your-own station where guests can make custom creations, whether that’s making Italian cream sodas or decorating homemade caramel apples in the fall.

So, I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the start of the summer season and FINALLY having warm weather than by throwing an ice cream party where everybody gets to make their own ice cream sundae creation.

An image of a bunch of toppings on a table for people to make their own ice cream sundaes.

When to Throw an Ice Cream Social

There are so many occasions to throw an ice cream social: summer holidays, like Memorial Day and the 4th of July, immediately come to mind, but there are also graduations, birthday parties, block parties, back-to-school parties (let’s not talk about that right now though, m’kay?), and impromptu get-togethers with friends, which honestly, are my favorite of all.

I like to keep a few of our favorite Tillamook ice cream flavors that we pick up from Safeway in the freezer for just these occasions. I’m picky about ice cream, and Tillamook makes its ice cream with the highest quality ingredients, which makes for the best-tasting versions of my favorite flavors. They even include extra cream for rich, smooth creaminess.

Of course, we always have Tillamook Old-Fashioned Vanilla, Oregon Strawberry, and Tillamook Mudslide. But I also like to mix things up and get something a little more unexpected too, like Tillamook’s Marionberry Pie flavor, or their Oregon Dark Cherry (possibly my favorite Tillamook flavor ever).

An image of cartons of ice cream for an ice cream sundae bar.

This is easy entertaining at its best. There’s no baking involved (unless you decide you need brownies for your sundaes, which I totally support), so you don’t have to heat up the oven.

I typically have plenty of topping options on hand just by rifling through my pantry. And it only takes a few minutes to quickly whip up some homemade hot fudge sauce, peanut butter sauce, or marshmallow sauce.

Throw in a water slide or trampoline, put on some tunes, and you’ve got yourself a party.

An image of a child holding an ice cream sundae.

Toppings

This is where I like to provide a lot of variety, although I typically stick to around 8-10 topping options.  

I love displaying toppings in mason jars. They always look so pretty and enticing!

  • chopped almonds
  • chopped peanuts
  • maraschino cherries
  • whipped cream
  • crushed cookies
  • diced strawberries
  • toasted coconut
  • chopped candy bars
  • graham cracker crumbs
  • marshmallows
  • mini chocolate chips
  • mini M&M’s
  • white chocolate chips
  • chocolate sprinkles
  • rainbow sprinkles
  • gummy bears
  • mini peanut butter cups
  • Andes creme de menthe chips
  • wet nuts (it’s a thing and it’s delicious)
  • toffee bits
  • cereal

Leftover toppings can almost always be bagged up and saved for mixing into cookies, brownies, bars, rice krispie treats, or decorating cakes or cupcakes.

An image of mason jars filled with ice cream sundae toppings. An image of people at an ice cream sundae party.

Sauces

I aim for 3-4 sauces when hosting an ice cream social.  

  • hot fudge (basically always, because how can you not have chocolate sauce at an ice cream sundae bar?)
  • strawberry sauce
  • marshmallow topping (my personal favorite)
  • caramel sauce (or better yet, salted caramel sauce)
  • homemade cherry pie filling
  • peanut butter sauce
  • homemade magic shell
  • raspberry sauce
  • pineapple topping
  • whipped cream

An image of an ice cream sundae bar.

Containers

Of course, you need something to serve your ice cream sundaes in. Think about whether you want to deal with washing up containers afterward or if you want to opt for paper that you can toss to minimize time spent cleaning up after the party.

  • cute paper ice cream sundae cups (you can order some online or get them at party stores)
  • mason jars
  • old-fashioned ice cream sundae dishes
  • waffle bowls

Also, don’t forget plenty of plastic spoons and ice cream scoops!

An image of an ice cream sundae bar toppings.

I have zero problem standing and scooping ice cream flavors on-demand (it’s the high school job I never had), but you could also pre-scoop ice cream into cups or muffin tins and stick the ice cream balls into the freezer to firm up, then bring them out when it’s time for the party.

Kids and grown-ups alike get super into making their ice cream sundae creations. It’s why I love to offer a variety of options of ice cream flavors, sauces, and toppings.

It’s fun to see how some people gravitate toward fruit and nuts (me!), and others go full candy mode with mini peanut butter cups and gummy bears (not me, but basically the rest of my family).

An image of girl holding an ice cream sundae.

What’s your favorite Tillamook ice cream flavor? Can you think of any other toppings I haven’t listed that I should have at my next ice cream social? Tell me in the comments below! Don’t forget to pick up your own cartons of Tillamook Ice Cream at your local Safeway!

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