The wide beaches, ocean views, and eternal sun have attracted filmmakers to Seal Beach since the dawn of movie-making. The most famous production shot here was Cecil B. DeMille's "Ten Commandments," where Moses parted the Red Sea on a flat stretch of sand. This was the 1923 black-and-white version with Theodore Roberts as Moses and not the 1956 color version with Charlton Heston. (Bet you didn't know there were two of them.)
Quaint, uncrowded and not overdeveloped, Seal Beach stands out as the quintessential southern California beach town, complete with wooden pier, two miles of oceanfront, and just a few Starbucks. You'd be hard-pressed to find anything taller than three stories even among the commercial buildings. The locals are friendly and seem to consist mostly of surfboard toting beach-lovers.
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Getting to Know Seal Beach
Seal Beach is wedged into the northwest corner of Orange County. You can reach it on the coast through Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1), from north or south on the San Diego Freeway (I-405) or from the east on the Garden Grove Freeway (SR22). Nearly two-thirds of the city consists of the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station, which houses a classified contingent of heroes. (For security reasons, the government would like you to pretend the base isn't there.) This doesn't leave much room for the city's 24,168 residents.
When moving to Seal Beach, you want to tip the rental balance in your favor with so few units available. Apartment managers want to know that you make enough to afford the unit, and that you're financially responsible. You prove the first with pay stubs. You reveal the second through a good credit report. To check yours for free, visit AnnualCreditReport.com. Then clean up your credit by paying off as many of your obligations as you can.
There are literally just a couple of apartment complexes within city limits, so many who frequent local streets live in larger adjacent cities, like Long Beach. If you want to lease a home in the city, you're more likely to do it with a rental house or condominium. To make it easier to find these pads, go through a rental or real-estate agent. Otherwise, your residential options include the following:
City Center: You might be surprised to find that the city center is nowhere near the center of the city at all. In fact, it's on the coast, which is the western edge of town. However, whether you're interested in a studio apartment or a two-bedroom, you'll find it here. There are tons of apartments in the area, but they're pricy. You get what you pay for, though, since you'll be closest to all the best amenities, dining, entertainment and more -- right outside of your door! You'll also be able to go to the beach whenever you want. Dreamy.
Eastern Seal Beach: Eastern Seal Beach is the place to look if you're looking for affordable rental apartments. It's far from the epicenter of town, which exists at the beach. But the best part about Eastern Seal Beach is that it has tons of housing options at prices that are budget-friendly. Another great perk of Eastern Seal Beach is that it has tons of regular, suburban businesses - so you can get your errands done, shop and eat right by your home.
Getting Around Seal Beach
The Orange County Transit Authority takes charge of public transit for Seal Beach, which means slow service that's only marginally better than walking (and only if there's a hurricane). Like in the rest of southern California, you need your own wheels to get around.
Fortunately, rentals, private homes, and businesses offer car owners lots of parking spots, carports or garages. Parking is free throughout the city but be sure to pay attention to the signs. Some streets limit your stay to a couple of hours.
Three beach parking lots, at just a few dollars for a couple of hours, offer spaces for those who want to be near the water. That is, unless you have the wheelchair sticker on your license plate. Then it costs nothing.
Traffic is usually manageable except in summer when everyone from Orange County passes through the streets at the same time just to reach the water.
What to Do in Seal Beach
There's one main reason you want an apartment for rent in Seal Beach, so head for the sands. Bring everything you need for the day, because all you'll find near the water are clusters of pine trees, some picnic tables, a volleyball net or two, and the protection of lifeguards.
The Municipal Pier may be a more happening place. It was built in 1906 and is the second-longest wooden pier in southern California (with the first at Oceanside). You can fish, watch the waves or surf near it. Another popular place to hang ten is at the mouth of the San Gabriel River, more locally known as Stingray Bay. The heated water from upstream power plants beckons the stingrays to gather in this area.
More natural wonders show up at the 911 acres of National Wildlife Refuge, which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service looks after. It shelters three endangered bird species as well as a saltwater marsh. Because the sanctuary sprawls near a military installation, you can only visit during the monthly guided tours, generally held on the last Saturday of each month. You can also volunteer to restore the habitat or pick up trash on the first Wednesday of each month.
There's more nature, of the more manicured kind, at Eisenhower Park, with magnificent ocean views, and Gum Grove Park, with a hiking trail through a eucalyptus forest. Pooches perk up at the dog run of Arbor Park.
Man-made wonders say buy me from over 70 boutiques, antique stores, art galleries and restaurants at Main Street. Because the charming one-story facades of these retailers huddle within a three-block area, you can easily visit them all on two feet.
For more organized diversions, attend one of the annual events. The Classic Car Show closes down Main Street to display over 500 classic cars. The Lion's Club has been holding its International Fish Fry since 1943, making it the community's longest-running extravaganza.