Anne Arundel famously boasts more than its share of million-dollar yachts, but you needn't belong to the upper crust to take to the county's cool waters.
Maneuver your way across tranquil Harness Creek or, if you're more nautically experienced, onto the much busier South River; return any time you wish, so long as it's before 5 p.m.
What's cool: Try a stand-up paddleboard, a 12-foot-long surfboardlike vessel you paddle as though you were upright in a canoe. "You may not realize it at the time, but it's a good workout for your core," says manager Lauren Devin, who will offer pointers free of charge.
For nearly a decade, little buccaneers have loved Pirate Adventures on the Chesapeake, a seafarers' delight based in Annapolis that offers a choice of six 75-minute voyages every summer day.
Their faces painted Blackbeard-style, guest brigands seek sunken treasure, puzzle through messages in a bottle and even fire one of the ship's 14 high-powered water cannon, should the crew's arch-enemy, Pirate Pete, pull his craft up alongside.
"On really hot days, [Pete] shoots back, and he's a devil with a Super Soaker," says co-owner Emily Tomasini, adding that the old brute is "the stinkiest, most rotten pirate on the Seven Seas."
What's cool: Guests generally send Pirate Pete to Davy Jones' Locker and return to shore with a few bold tales to tell, all for less than $20.
Everyone from birthday partiers to bachelorettes can enjoy aquatic opulence with S.J. Koch Duffy Electric Boat Rental and Sales, a family-run operation whose 10 boats depart from sites in Annapolis, Baltimore and Washington. Ten people can comfortably fit on the lavishly outfitted, battery-powered vessels ($125 per hour, $750 per day), which owner Sally Koch says are quiet enough not to disturb the region's wildlife and clean enough to leave little footprint on the bay.
Come an hour early to get your DNR-approved operator's license. Take your craft anywhere you like, and keep an eye on the battery meter.
What's cool: Operators will pick up guests anywhere it's legal to dock; some restaurants will deliver meals before launch.
Making a splash
Those who want to get into the water, not on it, also have plenty of options.
Guests at the North Arundel Aquatic Center in Glen Burnie can brush up their butterflies and breast strokes in any of eight 25-yard competitive lanes. But they can also splash, slide and get themselves soaked in a separate water park that boasts a waterfall, a vortex pool and a set of automated buckets that scoop water, climb in the air and dump a few gallons onto often-surprised guests.
For most, though, the highlight is a curling, 134-foot-long water slide that drops riders (often screaming) into a catch pool deep enough to manage the severest of splashdowns. "We have kids who go up and down, up and down, until they just wear themselves out," says facility manager Jackie Herman.
Water park sessions last two hours and sell out quickly. Come by early to make in-person reservations.
What's cool: Only those under 48 inches tall may use the preschool slide.
Fifteen miles to the south, swimmers at the Arundel Olympic Swimming Center in Annapolis, also a county facility, don't have waterfalls and slides, but the center more than makes up for it with an Olympic-sized, temperature-controlled indoor pool; a pair of 3-meter diving boards; a spa big enough to hold 17 people; a kiddie pool with a zero-depth entry point; and a slew of fitness and swimming classes for kids and grownups.
What's cool: Space is reserved for adult lap swimmers between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., three days a week.