Free water ice! The Rita’s flavors that have lasted 30 years

This time the first day of spring promo lasts a week — but you have to download the app today.

Danya Henninger

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The frozen treat company founded by Philadelphia firefighter Bob Tumolo has been ushering in the warmer seasons with free water ice for 30 years now. But Rita’s first day of spring promo is slightly different this time around:

To get your free red-and-white striped cup, you have to download the Rita’s app today — and you can redeem it anytime this week.

The way it works: download the app by March 20. You’ll get a reward with a special QR code. Show it to the counter person of one of the 25 locations in Philly — or any of the nearly 600 locations across 30+ states (where the franchises are known as “Rita’s Italian Ice” instead of “Rita’s Water Ice”).

When the deal was first rolled out in 1992, the world was a very different place. Microsoft had just released Windows 3.1. Bill Clinton had smashed opponents in Super Tuesday Democratic presidential primaries. Ed Rendell had just been sworn in as mayor, and Charles Barkley was a couple months from getting traded to the Phoenix Suns. Rita’s, which Tumelo had founded in 1984, was about to add custard to its dessert lineup for the first time.

Some things haven’t changed at all. There are nine Rita’s flavors that have been offered through the three decades of the promotion:

  • Cherry
  • Lemon
  • Chocolate
  • Pineapple
  • Mango
  • Root Beer
  • Strawberry
  • Vanilla
  • Watermelon

Cherry, lemon and chocolate are water ice canon, and pineapple is also traditional. Root beer is a crowd-pleaser, something that appeals to kids and grandpas alike. Watermelon, strawberry and vanilla? Classic candy flavors. And mango is still one of Rita’s top-selling flavors. But pour one out for mint chocolate chip, which was on this list five years ago, but is no longer offered.

Of course, there are plenty of other, non-franchised spots to get water ice in Philly. To plan out the rest of your spring slurping, check our list here.

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