Oakland, the area's largest city, is famous for its somewhat smaller Chinatown and its beautiful waterfront Jack London Square, as well as its large port and eucalyptus-spotted hills. Berkeley, just north of Oakland, is home to the University of California and tens of thousands of students, as well as left-leaning politics and great food.
Walnut Creek - The best shopping in the Bay Area behind San Francisco
Eugene O'Neill National Historic Site - America's only Nobel Prize winning playwright, Eugene O'Neill, chose to live in Northern California at the climax of his writing career. Isolated from the world and within the walls of his home, O'Neill wrote his final and most memorable plays; The Iceman Cometh, Long Day's Journey Into Night, and A Moon for the Misbegotten. Reservations are required to visit this site.
John Muir National Historic Site - John Muir National Historic Site preserves the Victorian home of the noted author and preservationist. Surrounded by almost 9 acres of fruit orchards and 326 acres of oak woodland, the site today is just a small piece of the original 2,600 acre ranch. The United States is forever indebted to the "Father of the National Park Service" for helping to preserve this countries greatest treasures.
What the locals call "the East Bay" is really two fairly distinct regions separated by the East Bay hills. On the bay side of the hills in the west, the cities of Berkeley, Oakland, San Leandro and Hayward rise from the edge of the San Francisco Bay up the western face of the foothills. The climate tends to be temperate, the culture diverse and the traffic horrendous.
On the eastern side of the hills, the towns of Walnut Creek, Pleasanton and Livermore lie in the area known as the Tri-Valley region (named for the Livermore, San Ramon and Amador valleys). The climate here is more like that of the San Joaquin Valley, with foggy winters and scorching summers. The population is more homogeneous, but the traffic is still pretty awful. Originally, when the small towns of the Tri-Valley area began to grow into immense suburbs in the 1970's, many people commuted over the hills to work in the South Bay, the Peninsula or the City. Today, many large corporations have offices in the Tri-Valley area, and the suburbs of Pleasanton and Walnut Creek are growing into small cities.
However, due to the population exodus from "The City" (due to $$$ high prices and low bang for the buck) and the movement of some families from the west side of the hills it is growing very rapidly and the traffic is now as terrible as any place in Northern California. As the locals would say "The traffic is like, um like, hella bad here"
Contra Costa County in itself is divided into three parts simply referred to as: "West County" near Richmond, "Central County" for the booming area near Walnut Creek, Concord, and Mount Diablo, "East County" for the area near the Delta which includes Antioch or Brentwood.
The two main area codes are (510) for Western Alameda county and the "West County" region of Contra Costa, and (925) for central and east Contra Costa County and for the central eastern part of Alameda county near the fairgrounds Pleasanton and Livermore.
There are many malls and shopping centers in the east bay. Sunvalley Mall (Concord), Stoneridge Mall (Pleasanton), Bay Fair Mall, New Park Mall, Southland Mall, and Hilltop Mall are some of the largest.
There are three professional sports teams in Oakland: Oakland A's (baseball), Oakland Raiders (football), and the Golden State Warriors (basketball).
The University of California Berkeley is world renowned for it's educational standards and its liberal viewpoint of most things. The California Bears Football team plays in ancient memorial stadium, which sits right over the Hayward Faultline.
The East Bay Regional Park District maintains 65 parks across the East Bay, ranging from easy access picnic areas to off-limits wildlife sanctuaries. More than a dozen campsites range from "family camping" to backpack areas.
East Bay fans love sports: you can see pro teams in Oakland, across the bay in San Francisco and in the south bay (San Jose). The CAL Bears play at UC Berkeley.