Even on summer weekends, it's easy to score one of the 12 shaded picnic benches if you get there early enough. Those who tire of swimming in the chilly tidal waters can rent a rowboat or motorboat, fish off a rock jetty or take to the hiking trails without ever leaving the 786-acre park.
How's this for a summer destination? A place where 14,000 gallons of water have been turned to ice, temperatures always stay at about 63 degrees and you can plenty of exercise without ever applying sunscreen.
The Gardens Ice House in Laurel — technically in Prince George's County, but just across the Anne Arundel line — is one such place. Here you can play hockey, learn to figure-skate and even, at times, take lessons driving the Zamboni on two full-sized rinks.
What's cool: Public sessions are only on Saturdays during the summer, but under-12 ice hockey newbies can learn the normally pricey game for a nominal fee in the "Let's Play Hockey" program, which provides skates, shin guards, elbow pads and helmets free of charge, not to mention a Capitals jersey for first-time enrollees.
Frigid times also await at the popular Piney Orchard Ice Arena in Odenton, where public skating sessions ($7 for adults, $6 for kids, $3.50 to rent a pair of skates) are scheduled at least five days a week through September.
What's cool: The rink features an award-winning figure-skating organization for youth, including training in synchronized skating.
The only ice at Wheels Skating Center in Odenton is the kind you get in your Coke at the snack bar, but if you're looking for an air-conditioned place to get some exercise, this roller rink — the only one in the county that sponsors competitions — is a good destination. With its old-school, polished maple floor, skate rentals for $2 (four-wheelers) and $4 (in-line), and six-day-a-week public sessions, it can rival ice rinks for summer fun. And the snack bar serves hand-dipped ice cream.
What's cool: The facility's artistic skating club, which hosts an annual tournament, has members between 4 and 80 years old.
Come to think of it, ice in a cup can itself be a tonic. The size of the granules may vary, but snow cones and similar treats always refresh on a summer's day.
It wouldn't even feel like summer if she didn't have a snow-cone machine up and running every day, says Theresa Engblom, a staffer at Dick and Jane's Farm in Harwood. The treats have been a warm-weather staple at the friendly roadside stand for a dozen years, and locals say if they couldn't stop by to sample the 32 flavors (everything from egg custard to tiger's blood), take a perch in the shade in the covered produce area and hang out a while, it wouldn't seem like August in rural southern Anne Arundel County.
What's cool: Engblom, who doesn't care for the tropical taste of tiger's blood (a strawberry-coconut blend), knows many of her regulars' flavors by heart.
Five miles north, on Riva Road, a sign hangs at the top of the hill near Davidsonville Nursery: "Snowballs," it says. "People stop in all the time and ask, 'What kind of plant is a snowball?' " says owner Shawn Stallings with a laugh. In fact, Stallings and his staffers serve 40-plus flavors of the icy indulgence to go with native plants, herbs and a variety of landscaping services.
It's a surprisingly good part of his summer business, Stallings says, in part because there aren't a lot of other stands in the area, in part because he makes sure to use real sugar, not corn syrup.
Plenty of people come in just for the treats — mostly for old standbys like cherry, but also for the weirder flavors like watermelon, pina colada and sour apple.
What's cool. Visitors come from as far as Bowie and Upper Marlboro specifically to visit the stand.
Then there's O'Kieffe, who just took on his new identity as America's 174th Kona Shaved Ice man this summer.
He's still learning the ins and outs of the business, he says — what neighborhoods to visit and when, which businesses to serve, what swim centers to make part of his route. (Adult swim time is best, he says, since children flood from the pool.)
Those kids like his product so much they're starting to learn his name, and vice versa.
However the venture turns out, he figures he's getting well paid. "The smiles on their faces are so cool," O'Kieffe says. "It makes me feel like a rock star."