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Nautical Ice Cream Sundae Bar Ideas

This post is sponsored by California Milk Advisory Board.

free printables button

Did you know that there’s such a thing as National Hot Fudge Sundae Day? Seriously – you can google it! And also… it’s TOMORROW. Personally, I think any day is a great day for a hot fudge sundae, but if someone wants to give me a good excuse to enjoy one, then that’s just fine by me. ;)

So, in celebration of National Hot Fudge Sundae Day – and of July being National Ice Cream Month in general – California Milk Advisory Board asked me to create a family-friendly Milkshakes & Sundaes Bar, featuring delicious ice cream made from Real California Milk. I always love a good party theme, and thought a nautical twist felt especially fitting for summer, so I invite you to scroll on down and Set Sail for Shakes and Sundaes with me today!

I hope this post inspires you to set up an ice cream bar of your own, which can mean anything from styling out a full table to utilizing just a couple of your favorite quick ideas for a simpler get together. Either way, I’m giving away all of these Nautical Ice Cream Printables for free, which should make recreating this look even easier. Download the signs, labels, banner, and other paper details right here.

Ice Cream in acrylic tubs


The first thing you’ll need to do is map out the basics:

1) flavors of ice cream made from Real California Milk
2) mix-ins and toppings
3) serving vessels

For a shakes and sundaes bar, I’ve found that it’s best to keep the ice cream options simple. Serve just 2-3 flavors so that you have plenty of room for toppings & mixers. In addition to cups and sundae bowls, it’s always nice to include ice cream cones for the people that love them… like me! ;)

ice cream sundae bar ideas

I found the plastic bowls pictured above at Target for .79 each. They’re technically kids bowls, but perfectly sized for ice cream sundaes! Wooden spoons were customized with patterned paper on the handles (except for the one design I had that already matched). Bottled toppings like flavored syrups and hot fudge got a quick makeover too, with ribbon + printable papers & labels.

This station is equipped with everything you needs to make milkshakes, floats, ice cream sundaes, and even an Ice Cream Sundae Milkshake (!) like this one:

hot fudge sundae milkshake

Don’t be afraid to get creative with the way that you serve toppings too. Several of the toppings in my “Sprinkle Station” were served in a cute white container that’s actually a kid-friendly room organizer:

ice cream sundae bar topping ideas & sign

Speaking of kid-friendly, this was one of those projects that my own little ice cream lovers couldn’t wait to get their hands into too… they made a beeline for the Sprinkle Station station soon as I let them loose. ;)

nautical ice cream party

My favorite part of this table was the DIY Ice Cream Sailboat. In a nutshell, this is a (very simple!) makeshift sailboat that looks like it’s carrying the ice cream:

diy ice cream sailboat

To make the sailboat, I used a red planter from Ikea as the boat base. It’s filled with acrylic containers full of Vanilla, Strawberry, and Chocolate ice cream made from Real California Milk + ice to keep them cold.

The sail is made from foam core cut into a triangle shape, covered in fabric & embellished with a printable sign. I’m including the sign in the free printable collection, both in this “sail” version and also as a standard 8×10 too, in case you prefer to just frame it. The finished sail is attached to a wooden dowel that was inserted into a small, floral-foam-filled container sitting directly behind the planter. (Keeping the sail detached from the “boat” base made it much easier to prop up straight and adjust.)

I also channeled this “ice cream boat” idea within the printables:

free printable ice cream banner

Nautical themes always make me think of the “message in a bottle” idea, so for this table we had “MIXERS in a Bottle”. ;)

ice cream party mixers

The mixer bottles and milk carafe are embellished with colored duct tape, twine, and printable triangle shaped labels.

milk carafe - nautical theme

The hot fudge and caramel topping bottles were decorated in a similar way, except they’re wrapped with patterned paper instead of duct tape:

hot fudge topping - ice cream party

Cups for the milkshakes were also embellished with baker’s twine, and I hot glued mini party flags to wide straws (from Ikea). The straws were shortened a bit as well.

nautical ice cream party printables

Helpful Tip: Even though milkshakes are traditionally served in tall soda fountain style cups, I recommend using short tumblers or smaller cups for a milkshake bar. It takes a LOT of ice cream to make even a small milkshake, so this size should satisfy most people. Guests can always make a 2nd one (possibly in a different flavor!) if they’re hungry for more.

ice cream bar sprinkles station

For the nautical Sprinkle Station, I loved the idea of showcasing a cute whale shooting sprinkles out of it’s blowhole. Quickly realizing that would take quite the effort to create in 3D form, and a chunk of time that I didn’t have, I settled for the simpler solution of adding colorful paper details to a cute wooden whale instead.

The little DIY “sailor hats” made from coffee sleeves are a fun craft project that the kids can help with too… just trim standard coffee sleeves a bit to make them shorter, then add a square of patterned paper in the middle. Glue paper “sprinkles” to the front for a fun, ice-cream inspired touch.

red marquee letters and nautical milkshakes

Pictured above are a few examples of the different milkshakes you can make from a standard ice cream bar: (clockwise from top left) Bananas for Caramel, Strawberry Shortcake, Chocolate Cherry, Coconut-Vanilla-Fudge Sundae, and Chocolate Malted Crunch. The sky’s the limit for your own station though… that’s the best thing about a make-your-own ice cream bar!

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask away in the comments section below. Don’t forget to check the free printables here, and make sure to look for the Real California Milk seal when shopping for your ice cream! Here’s what it looks like:

Real California Milk

free printables button


– Styling, Photography and Graphic Design: Hostess with the Mostess
– Sponsor: California Milk Advisory Board