Ice cream, ice cream, everywhere. We've got big shops, little shops, carry out and full service. There are vendors, stalls and factories.

One thing is certain: Washington is a sucker for ice cream. Brands once limited to others parts of the country or to speciality grocers now are cause to open a store here. I've watched people around the area stop their cars to ask pedestrians eating ice cream cones where the closest store is. Ice cream does that to you.

Our family's tastes run from simple bowls to flowing floats or soaring sundaes. But we adhere to the American standard: We're an ice cream family.

But when you start to talk about ice cream, you realize that everyone has a favorite. The reasons vary, but ice cream lovers will tell you why their favorite is the best. There are people who eat only vanilla ice cream, no matter what the options are.

The following is a sampler to help finish the hazy summer days and start the winter wonders. Ice cream knows no season.

Good ice cream speaks for itself. But you need to save your pennies to go out for ice cream now. Gone are the 10-cent cones, and it also is hard to find toppings for 10 cents. Sundaes may cost as much as $2. Bob's Famous Homemade Ice Cream 2416 Wisconsin Ave. NW. 965-4499.

Hours: Daily from noon until midnight weekdays, and until 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Special features: Limited, creative menu. Few tables and chairs. Toppings galore.

The name says it all: Bob's Famous Homemade Ice Cream. Many of the ice cream rules of the city fell apart when Bob's Famous was born. No longer was an imaginative sundae builder limited to chocolate sauce. Flavors escape from the past and a cone became a creation. Big and fun became the name of the game.

Today's flavors may include chocolate mousee, java, French vanilla, pistachio Oreo, Mazambique or MMM&MMM. Tomorrow's may be of another world.

If the flavors alone do not start you dreaming, add further toppings. Long ago in the annals of ice cream, toppings were limited to sundaes. Not so at Bob's Famous, where a single scoop can be topped indefinitely.

A single scoop costs 75 cents. Toppings average 25 cents each. Sundaes prices start at $1.60 and climb into bigger proportions of wet and dry combinations.

Wet toppings let you experiment beyond hot fudge into the realms of honey banna, honey walnut, hot apple cinnamon or whipped cream. Dry offerings include granola, jimmies, goobers, or chocolat chips.

Bob's Famous is a "you-name-it, we'll-make-it" place. They operate with a heavy hand and give honest advice about the size of a double cone and the probabilities of finishing such a mountain.

Bob's Famous is the freshest of the fresh. Haagen-Dazs Ice Cream Shoppe 1438 Wisconsin Ave. NW. 3337-7505.

Hours: From 11 a.m. daily until 12:30 a.m.

Special features: Some sugar free flavors. Water fountain. No tables.

I remember when Haagen Dazs opened its Georgetown store several years ago. It was the beginning of real definitions of what was natural and what was artificially colored.

Here is a store devoted exclusively to rich, creamy, pure ice cream. Rum-raisin fanatics could hardly wait until the doors opened. Suddenly, ice cream lovers had a chocolat-chip choice. Haagen Dazs makes both vanilla chocolate chip and chocolate chip.

Flavors are not merely names, they are followed by a full explanation of ingredients. One is made aware of the fresh cream and the egg yolks used.

Flavors are divided into regular offerings, sugar-free varieties and special flavors.

Single scoop begin at 92 cents, and special flavors cost a little more. Double scoops are $1.70.Sundaes, sodas and floats are yours for the asking. Or you can select a wet or dry topping for a cone.

Crowded Saturdays find Haagen dazs enthusiasts overflowing onto Wisconsin Avenue. The Ice Cream Lobby 615 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. 547-3279.

Hours: Mondays through Thursdays, 11:30 a.m. until 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays until midnight.

Special features: A variety of name brands. Limited seating. Children's birthday parties.

What a year to discover Capitol Hill's answer to the two-party system. The Ice Cream Lobby favors equal representation for Haagen dazs, bassett's, Empress, Dannon Yogurt and Famous Amos chocolate-chip cookies.

If the wide representation does not get your vote; then they'll wow you with their wide range of flavors.

You can really let loose here and select a flavor from each company, then top it with fresh fruit.

Price vary, depending on brand name, from 70 cents for a single scoop of Pennsylvania's Empress to 95 cents for Haagen Dazs. There are also sodas, sundaes and floats.

The Ice Cream Lobby is the brand-name solution for the family that cannot agree on where to go for ice cream. Filibustering for one brand or another can be resolved by sampling each of the creamy best, whether it's Empress' strawberry Cheesecake or Haagen Dazs' silky chocolate. Swensen's Ice Cream Factory and Parlor 5310 Wisconsin Ave. NW. (Mazza Gallerie) 966-8606.

Other locations: In the District, in Georgetown and Tenley Circle; in Maryland, in Bethesda, College Park and Montgomery Mall.

Hours: Open daily from 11 a.m. until midnight during the week and until 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Special features: Table and carry-out service. Sandwiches also served.

A few years ago California came to Washington in the form of Swensen's. Now there are Swenson's outlets throughout the area.

You can order single dishes or cones for carry-out, but the primary emphasis for table service is on sundae, sodas, floats and special children's portions.

The treat for children at Swensen's is to watch the ice cream making equipment at work.

The attractive room is filled with pleasantly spaced tables and booths, ceiling fans and fresh flowers. Gilt-edged decoration is everywhere. Prices match.

Sundaes begin at $2.45 for two scoops and topping. Many of the names are reminiscent of the San Francisco area: the biggest, shakiest sundae of them all, for $6.95, is called "The Earthquake."

Junior size sundaes, sodas, shakes an malts are available beginning at $1.50. Most children enjoy the upside-down cone decorated with bubble gum features called Mr. San Francisco.

Treasure Island floats ($1.50) may be the best of the many offerings. A large scoop of ice cream is served in a frosty mug, the old-fashioned iced way.

Ice cream at Swensen's is big business. You're better off with single scoops, or your ice cream adventure may rival the cost of dinner out. Baskin-Robbins

Locations throughout the metropolitan area. Hours vary.

No matter where you are, a Baskin Robbins cannot be far away. As a franchise operation, certain items are standard. Any variation may be due to the difference in freezer conditons from one store to another.

Some flavors are available every month. New ones rotate into the structure and older, popular flavors return. Sherbets, ices and yogurts are also available. Little pink spoons are available to help you sample selections you are not familiar with.

The fare at Baskin-Robbins centers primarily around cones, although a full range of sodas, sundaes and floats is available. Double scoops are 95 cents and served in a choice of cones or in a bowl.

Toppings are reserved for sundaes and the largest creation aptly is titled "Mount Olympus."