Lying across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco, the East Bay has a unique culture that's more laid back and uncomplicated than its Western neighbor's.
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, is home to the University of California and tens of thousands of students, as well as left-leaning politics and great food.
What the locals call "the East Bay" is really two fairly distinct regions, separated by the East Bay Foothills. On the bay side of the hills in the west, the cities of Berkeley, Oakland 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 foothills, 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 homogenous, but the traffic is still pretty awful. Origninally, when the small towns of the Tri-Valley area began to grow into immense suburbs in the 1970's, everybody 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.
The East Bay Regional Park District maintains 65 parks across the East Bay, ranging from easy access picninc areas to off-limits wildlife sanctuaries. More than a dozen campsites range from "family camping" to backpack areas.