No movie stars or mansions: The Southern California beach town keeps it real

In this little slip of a beach community, young familiescommingle peaceably with surf rats and sun-bronzed retirees. Unlikesome of its neighbors, Seal Beach is content to keep things low-keyand ungentrified. What you'll find along Main Street, Old Town SealBeach's primary shopping drag, is an eclectic mix of venerablema-and-pa establishments with hardly a chain store in sight. Youcould easily while away the day at the beach here, but it would bea shame to miss downtown. Spend some time dipping into the variousboutiques and shops, then take in a movie at the historic BayTheatre before getting some grub at one of the many yummyrestaurants nearby ― no need to dress up for dinner.

GETTING THERE

Seal Beach is located just southeast of Long Beach in OrangeCounty. From Los Angeles, take I-405 to the Seal Beach Blvd. exit.Hop onto Pacific Coast Hwy. State 1 going north; it will lead youto Main St.

SHOP

Up Up and Away Kites The cramped store sells all manner ofthings that flutter. A perfect place to start before heading to thebeach. INFO: 139 ½ Main St.; 562/596-7661.

Maison Bleu About as upscale as Seal Beach gets, withhigh-style home decor in coastal hues. INFO: 207 ½ MainSt.; 562/936-1436.

GO

The Bay Theatre The town's classic movie theater mixesmodern masterpieces with new releases. INFO: 340 Main St.;562/431-9988.

Seal Beach Pier Picturesque views of the Pacific, freeconcerts (6-8 Wed, Jul 11-Aug 15), and lazy fishing. INFO: $6parking; at the end of Main St.

EAT

Nick's Popular with Seal Beach's Gen-Y contingent, Nick'shas the best burritos in town. INFO: $;223 Main St.; 562/598-5072.

Walt's Wharf The best seafood in town also has an extensivewine list to complement your oak-grilled New Zealand bluenose seabass. INFO: $$$$;201 Main St.; 562/598-4433.

Beachwood BBQ Bring a big appetite to this joint; thedry-rubbed ribs and pulled-pork sandwiches are not for thetiny-tummied. INFO: $$;closed Mon; 131 ½ Main St.; 562/493-4500.

MAKE IT AN OVERNIGHT

With its French antiques and tapestries, luxurious sheets, andslow ceiling fans, the Ayres Hotel Seal Beach (104 rooms and suites from $149; 800/653-3230) makes everyeffort to bring a touch of European-inspired elegance to the beach.A boutique hotel that keeps things tastefully intimate, the Ayresfeatures deluxe suites in which Sir Noël Coward would havefelt right at home.

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