Dense with homey restaurants and quaint shops, the South Bay's El Segundo feels like a friendly Midwestern town. Its proximity to a colossal oil refinery adds charm--at least at night, when the many lights make it look like a miniature metropolis. A Standard Oil executive's wife hit on the name El Segundo, "the second" in Spanish (it was the company's second California refinery). Locals soon crowed that their city was el segundo a nada: "second to none." By 1930, planes were taking off from nearby LAX; by World War II, Douglas Aircraft had opened a plant. The arrival of the Los Angeles Air Force Base in 1964 cemented El Segundo's reputation as the "Aerospace Capital of the World."
ONE THING TO DO
When Silence Was Golden
Look back. Watch a silent film or a vintage talkie in the Old Town Music Hall. Built as the State Theatre in 1921, the 188-seat venue was taken over in 1968 by Bill Field and Bill Coffman, who installed a 1925 Mighty Wurlitzer. The 2,000-pipe, 244-key organ was used in the '20s to accompany vaudeville films, and it still does just that. Movies are shown on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Beforehand, there's a 20-minute organ concert, often with Field at the keyboard. Some Sundays are devoted to live jazz, ragtime and blues. 140 Richmond St., (310) 322-2592.
Number of Fortune 500 companies within city limits
Mai Tai Tikis
The Tavern on Main calls itself "Mayberry's Friendly Neighborhood Tavern," and it's just as advertised: a welcoming place to while away a lazy afternoon or evening. Red booths sit on a raised platform and customers slip business cards willy-nilly beneath the glass tops on the tables. Paintings of Aunt Bea and Gomer Pyle adorn the restroom doors, and the whole place overflows with camaraderie. 123 Main St., (310) 322-3645 . . . The South Pacific reigns at Purple Orchid Exotic Tiki Lounge, where worker bees and canoodling couples come together to play pool and down a few scorpions in volcano bowls (those are cocktails). Split bamboo adorns the walls and tikis abound. Even the mai tais come in tiki mugs. 221 Richmond St., (310) 322-5829.
Just Stick to Your Knitting
For the needle-happy, The Slipt Stitch is a mecca, carrying more than 3,000 types of yarn and specializing in all things looped and purled. Owner Patricia Leon says that, at 46, her shop is one of the oldest knitting stores in California. Most days you'll find customers sitting around a small table by the entrance, knitting, crocheting and chatting. Part-time worker Natasha Hopkins calls knitting "the new yoga--it's relaxing." It's portable too, and you don't have to sweat. The shop offers knitting and crochet classes year-round. 421 Main St., (310) 322-6793.
Filmed on Location: El Segundo High School was the set for 1955's bad-teen movie "Blackboard Jungle," with Glenn Ford as a teacher tormented by Sidney Poitier and Vic Morrow. It helped send rock 'n' roll into the stratosphere by featuring Bill Haley and the Comet's "Rock Around the Clock." Maybe that's why the Ramones shot parts of their 1979 ode to themselves, "Rock 'n' Roll High School," at El Segundo High.