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Manteca, Lathrop & Ripon chocolate & ice cream options run the gamut from an old-fashioned ice cream parlor to a chocolate outlet
ice cream
The Ice Cream Emporium in Ripon.

Ice cream anyone?

Or how about indulging in chocolate?

Then might I suggest a sweet tour of Manteca, Lathrop, and Ripon?

You can satisfy your sweet tooth in a different spot over the course of five days.

First, a bit of background on the area’s sweet roots.

Manteca, for 77 years, was where Spreckels turned sugar beets into sugar.

Sugar that was used in large quantities by bakeries, soda companies before the food police formed, ice cream manufacturers, and for retail sale where it made its way from store shelves into kitchens where it sweetened coffee and was sprinkled on cereal back in the day when milk came from cows and not almonds, soybeans, or oats.  

Today part of the land where Spreckels Sugar once stood is 97,000 square feet of the sweetest cold storage in all of California. It is where Dryers Ice Cream operates a storage and distribution center on DuPont Court.

It’s a low-key affair especially given it backs up to the 120 Bypass/Highway 99 interchange where more than 150,000 vehicles pass in a given day.

It is supplied by the massive Dreyer’s Ice Cream plant in Bakersfield that at one time was the largest in the United States.

Ghirardelli Chocolate operates a 286,090-square-foot distribution center in Lathrop.

Unlike Dryers, the Ghirardelli distribution center has a public component.

The Ghirardelli Chocolate Outlet & Ice Cream Shop at 11980 South Harlan Road is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday.

Buying chocolate in bulk — or in smaller quantities — is not the only reason to stop  by. The ice cream — especially the sundaes — are sweet.

Heading east, your next stop to enjoy a decadent treat is Great Wolf Resort in Manteca.

You do not have to be a guest to access the Great Wolf’s dining options at the indoor water park resort on Daniels Street off of Airport Way.

There are seven options from  the Barnwood that offers shareable plates to the Hungry As a Wolf that offers large pizzas, salads, and pasta dishes.

But the real treat is Wood’s End Creamery.

Great Wolf, which uses Ben’s and Jerry ice cream, decided to up their game in Manteca.

Although it isn’t a Baskin Robbins with 32 flavors of even the thick shakes Chubby’ s Diner serves up in tall glasses that comes with a chilly stainless steel mixing container, the Great Wolf milkshakes score high on the decadent scale.

The chocolate version came with an ice cream bar buried partially in the whipped cream as well as chunks of chocolate on top. The strawberry version had a big juicy strawberry on top with chocolate candy. Both had three cookie sticks.

Try to find that at an outdoor waterpark or even at an ice cream store.

Woods’s End Creamery also has ice cream by the cone and cup.

Great Wolf has more for the sweet tooth including a bulk candy store that also has chocolate treats and other packaged treats. There are also tempting cupcakes heaped with tasty touches.

The next stop is just down the 120 Bypass from Great Wolf — Bass Pro Shops in Orchard Valley off of the Unio Road exit.

Bass Pro’s General Store and Fudge Shop has some of the best gourmet fudge around.

It also has a bunch of other sweet treats as well.

There are a growing number of people who will take a family excursion by attending a weekend matinee at the AMC Showplace 16 screen theater across from the Bass Pro Shops.

They then hit the Bass Pro for fudge to take with them to the adjoining lake where they use wild bird seed to feed the ducks that have taken up residence.

If you want a chocolate experience that is more than one dimensional — Ghirardelli isn’t bad but its kind of true and square — then head to downtown Manteca next.

There you will find a Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory location in the 300 block of West Yosemite Avenue just down from Manteca High.

It’s open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and closed Sundays.

It features fudge and caramel apples made in store. You can also indulge in gourmet truffles and a wide selection of dark and mile chocolates.

And if you want to enjoy a real treat, then head to the Ice Cream Emporium in the 100 block of West Main Street in Ripon.

It’s open Tuesday through Friday from 2 to 9 p.m. as well as Saturday and Sunday from noon to 9 p.m.

It’s about as close as you are going to get to an old-fashioned ice cream parlor.

It has the smell, the feel, and an indulgent ice cream selection.

It tops Baskin-Robbins with an offering of 37 flavors. That’s in addition to five vegan flavors.

The best part is the variety of topping, fruits  and sauces you can use to customize a sundae to your taste buds.

The place definitely lives up to its motto: A perfect treat for someone sweet.

The inside setting is ice cream parlor perfect to enjoy whatever treat you select. You can also savor your ice cream al fresco on the sidewalk and soak in the small town atmosphere.

The five options are worthwhile even though there are a lot of places that are solid go to places in the South County for ice cream treats.

Manteca, of course, the  two Baskin-Robbins locations on Main Street and a Coldstone Creamery near the McDonald’s on East Yosemite Avenue.

But there are other places worth a try such as Chubby’s to-die-for mile shakes served the old-fashioned way and quick fixes for your ice cream carvings such as the Dairy Queen on South Main in Manteca  that makes a mean mocha chip Blizzard.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email