Don't eat at Dairy Queen until you read this

Ice cream might typically be thought of as a summertime treat, but let's be honest — it's good any time of year. And whether you prefer to have yours served on a cone or in a cup, you can't deny that there is something about the sweet, cold goodness of this time-honored dessert that is guaranteed to put you in a good mood.

Since 1940, Dairy Queen has provided its customers with deliciously creamy soft serve in a variety of flavors that are sure to satisfy your sweet tooth. And with newer menu items like Blizzards, Royals, and other treats, you have an endless array of delicious options that will definitely cool you off on a hot day.

But before you head out to visit DQ and order yourself a frozen treat, there are some things you should know. From the best days and times to visit, to the tools you need to make your order easier, and even how you might score a free Blizzard, these tips will help to ensure that you have the best Dairy Queen experience possible.

Have your Blizzard served upside down or it's free

Dairy Queen is not afraid to make the claim that their Blizzards are so thick that they can hold their place inside of the cup even if it is turned upside down. The company stands so firmly by their claim that they even created a promotion around it. If you aren't afraid of the possibility of a little soft serve spilling, you could earn yourself a free Blizzard treat.

If you order any flavor of Blizzard treat at a participating Dairy Queen location, the DQ employee should turn it upside down before serving it to show you exactly how thick it is. And if your Blizzard isn't flipped — and you call it out to a DQ employee right away — you'll receive your next Blizzard free of charge. Even if you don't walk in to the DQ location, you can still take advantage of the chance to get a Blizzard on the house — the promotion applies to orders that are placed at the drive-thru window as well.

There's a funky ingredient you should know about

Going out for ice cream is supposed to be fun. It's a time to relax, enjoy, and release your inner kid. But while you're having all of that fun, you shouldn't forget to pay attention to the ingredients that are included in the ice cream you're eating. Along with milk, sugar, and corn syrup, there's a funky ingredient that can be found in Dairy Queen soft serve that should give you pause.

Carrageenan is one of the hard-to-pronounce ingredients added to DQ's famous soft serve. The ingredient, which comes from red seaweed, is often added to dairy products to keep them from separating. DQ and others add carrageenan to their soft serve in order to give it a thicker consistency. But as Prevention reported, though the ingredient is FDA-approved for use in food, it has essentially no nutritional value. And that same ingredient has also been linked to gut irritation and inflammation, as well as cancer in lab animals. 

Different locations can have different menus

Have you ever visited a Dairy Queen location and had a frozen treat that was so delicious you couldn't stop thinking about it? You promised yourself that you would have that treat again, only to be disappointed on your next visit when you learn that you can't get the same flavor of frozen yumminess at another DQ restaurant.

The reason why you may have experienced that major soft serve meltdown is because each DQ location is its own individual franchise. In the United States alone, there are over 2,000 unique franchisees with over 4,500 stores across the country. And because each store is individually owned and operated, there may be some minor differences in each menu. This means that while you will find some universal menu items at most locations, the franchise owners have some flexibility to add and change some items on the menu at their discretion.

This is particularly true in Texas, which has about 600 DQ locations, according to Wide Open Eats. The Lone Star State has unique menu items that you won't find anywhere else in the country, including chicken strips served with cream gravy.

Each DQ menu may differ, but on the bright side, this gives you a reason to take a cross-country road trip, sampling all of the regional DQ favorite flavors along the way.

Don't miss Free Cone Day

Depending on where you live, the winter months can be downright brutal. And after months of wearing heavy layers and braving the frigid temps, the first signs of spring are usually welcomed with open arms. For those who have been hibernating on their sofas binge-watching Netflix, warmer weather means picnics, baseball games, and of course, ice cream.

DQ knows how much people look forward to enjoying the warm temps and their delicious soft serve, which is why they welcome the arrival of spring with their Free Cone Day promotion. On the first day of spring, you can enjoy a free small vanilla cone at participating DQ and DQ Grill and Chill locations across the United States. Mall locations are excluded from this promotion.

After months of drinking hot chocolate, you may be tempted to try to score a few of these cold, creamy freebies. But alas, the promotion limits one cone per customer. The only thing better than a DQ cone is a free DQ cone.

There is a secret menu

If you think you've tried every DQ frozen treat flavor out there, you should think again. Although you may have actually sampled everything on the in-store menu — which is available to everyone — it's likely that you've never explored the frozen goodness on DQ's secret menu.

Like many popular restaurant chains, including Starbucks and Chick-fil-A, Dairy Queen has a secret menu of lesser-known items that are only available to those customers who know how to ask for them. And if you ask anyone who has ever had a Banana Split Frappuccino, they will tell you that it pays to have this inside info.

The Dairy Queen secret menu is a combination of old favorites and new treats. You can order the Midnight Truffle Blizzard, a former Blizzard of the Month, by getting a vanilla Blizzard blended with dark cocoa fudge and truffle bits mixed in. There's also the Banana Split Blizzard, which is made simply by mixing the banana split ingredients into a vanilla Blizzard. And don't forget the Frozen Hot Chocolate — just ask for a hot chocolate with ice blended in.

There are always new flavors to try

Dairy Queen first rolled out its Blizzard in 1985. Early customers loved the now-classic soft serve treat blended with chunks of popular candies and cookies, and it didn't take long for the dessert craze to catch on. Within a year of its initial launch, more than 175 billion Blizzards had been sold across all DQ locations. 

The Blizzard has been a constant fixture on the Dairy Queen menu for over 30 years. But even if you're a DQ regular, you'll never have to worry about getting bored with eating the same old Blizzard flavors every time you visit. From the special featured Blizzard Treat of the Month to seasonal flavors and menus, there is always a reason to head to your favorite DQ location to check out what's new. Who knows? You may even find a new favorite flavor — at least until the next new flavor is launched. 

Look for DQ Grill and Chill for hot food and cold treats

Most people go to Dairy Queen in search of soft serve, and who could blame them? But believe it or not, the iconic restaurant brand, which opened its first location in Joliet, Illinois in 1940, isn't just a place for desserts at all.

In 1958, Dairy Queen introduced its Brazier stores, which were locations that served burgers and other food items along with the soft serve. And although they have never had any plans of moving away from the soft serve treats their customers know and love, DQ has tried to expand its food offerings with the DQ Grill & Chill locations we often see today. According to The Daily Meal, the Grill & Chill locations go above and beyond the Brazier stores with limited table service as well as more menu items, including breakfast

And because no trip to Dairy Queen should be complete without a healthy helping of soft serve, at some locations you can take advantage of both the "grill" and "chill" with a lunch combo that includes a sundae along with an entree (chicken strips, burger, or salad), fries, and a drink, all for just $5.

There is nothing fat-free or sugar-free about this menu

Dieters, beware. Make sure you make your trip to DQ on your cheat day. No one goes to Dairy Queen when they're trying to cut back on calories. Because let's face it, Blizzards and cones are not exactly on the list of foods to eat when you're trying to lose weight. You won't find much in the way of diet-friendly menu items at DQ, and apparently, their loyal customers want to make sure they keep it that way.

When the folks at DQ tried to appeal to calorie-conscious customers by introducing a frozen yogurt version of their famous Blizzard, it was not exactly well-received. As The Daily Meal reported, Dairy Queen launched the Breeze in 1990. But the frozen yogurt treat was removed from the menu 10 years later in 2000 due to poor sales.

Although there are no sugar-free soft serve options, there are a few no-sugar-added items such as the Fudge Bar, Vanilla Orange Bar, and the Chocolate Dilly Bar.

But some menu options are better than others

If you're watching your weight, ice cream loaded with rich chunks of candy and drizzled with caramel may not exactly be the best dessert option. But you should still enjoy an occasional treat without feeling guilty, of course, and there are some items on the Dairy Queen menu that aren't as bad as others if you're counting calories.

At 230 calories and 7 grams of fat, a small vanilla cone is one of the lightest options on the DQ menu. But there are other ways to cut out some of the calories and fat found in your favorite treats without missing out on any of the frozen goodness. For instance, peanut butter lovers who are looking to eliminate some unnecessary calories without losing the rich peanut-buttery taste they love can make an easy menu swap: A small Peanut Butter Sundae has 380 calories and 22 grams of fat, as compared to the 710 calories and 31 grams of fat found in the Peanut Buster Parfait.

You should definitely join the Blizzard Fan Club

If you've ever wondered if anyone else out there loves Blizzards as much as you do, look no further than the Blizzard Fan Club. With over 4 million members, Dairy Queen's Blizzard Fan Club is a place where the most loyal Blizzard-lovers can earn sweet rewards every time they indulge in the famous frozen treat.

As a fan club member, you'll save on your sweets by receiving exclusive DQ deals delivered directly to your inbox. And you'll always have the inside scoop on the latest happenings at the company, as the first to hear the news of the newest Blizzard of the Month flavors and any other important announcements as they're released.

And just when you thought things couldn't get any better, Blizzard Fan Club members also get a little extra love to help make their birthday even more special. To show their appreciation, DQ will treat you to a free birthday Blizzard with the purchase of another equally or greater valued Blizzard.

There's an app for that

If Dairy Queen is one of your favorite summer spots to beat the heat, you should definitely be reaping some of the sweet rewards. The Dairy Queen mobile app can help you make sure you are taking full advantage of all of the perks associated with being a loyal DQ customer.

The app, which is available for iOS and Android, gives you plenty of ways to save on your favorite DQ treats directly from your mobile device. When you're on the go, you can use the app to help you find the closest DQ location. And when you're having a serious craving for a cone, the app allows you to place your order ahead of time and sail straight to the front of the line to claim your sweet frozen treat.  

And if all of that that wasn't enough, the DQ app also gives users access to exclusive offers as well as the opportunity to collect points to cash in for some free DQ treats. Just make sure your favorite DQ is a participating location.