Lying across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco, the East Bay consists primarily of Contra Costa County and Alameda County. It has a unique culture that's more laid back and uncomplicated than its Western neighbors. 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.
Contra Costa County is a primarily residential county that offers a vast array of food, shopping, and lodging options for Bay Area visitors. The landscape is dominated by Mount Diablo, a peak that provides excellent hiking opportunities and, on clear days, summit views that stretch for well over in all directions. Other attractions include the John Muir Historic Site in Martinez, the estate of Nobel winning playwright Eugene O'Neill in Danville, and a WWII shipyard, now a national historic site, in Richmond.
The densely populated northwestern part of Alameda County is home to the many parks and museums of Oakland, the counter-cultural hub that is Berkeley, and even a historic aircraft carrier in Alameda. The county's southern region provides a chance to experience dozens of immigrant communities, particularly in Fremont, while the eastern part of the county is rural, with the windmills and rolling hills surrounding Livermore offering opportunities for outdoor activities.
- - An island community separated from Oakland by a narrow channel
- - Fairly large city on the shoreline of the Delta
- - Home to the world famous University of California, Berkeley
- - Birthplace of jazz legend Dave Brubeck
- - East Bay's 2nd largest city with one of the largest Afghan communities in the U.S. and the northern edge of Silicon Valley
- - California State University, East Bay
- - The East Bay's largest city, and the home of Oakland International Airport
- - One of America's wealthiest mid-size cities, with a (somewhat) historic district and numerous upscale restaurants
- - The best shopping in the Bay Area behind San Francisco
- - This East Bay Regional Park District park surrounds Lake Del Valle, and includes wilderness areas with canyons, woodlands, grasslands, and some quite dramatic rock formations.
- - This 20,000-acre park provides great hiking opportunities on a mountain that dominates the landscape for most of central and eastern Contra Costa County. It offers an incredible viewshed, with views on clear days stretching to Mount Lassen.
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 in some places and during the rush hour. Originally, when the small towns of the Tri-Valley area began to grow into suburbs in the 1970s, 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.
Contra Costa County 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.
There are three professional sports teams in Oakland: Oakland A's (baseball), Oakland Raiders (football), and the Golden State Warriors (basketball).
The East Bay also has two NCAA Division I sports programs:
- The California Golden Bears field teams in 30 sports, mostly in the Pacific-12 Conference. Most Cal sports venues on campus, with the most notable being the ancient Memorial Stadium (football), which sits right over the Hayward Fault.
- The Saint Mary's Gaels, representing Saint Mary's College in Moraga, field teams in 19 sports, mostly in the West Coast Conference. Unlike Cal, Saint Mary's doesn't have a football team. Men's basketball is the hot-button sport here, with NCAA tournament appearances not unheard of.
By planeThe only major airport in the East Bay is Oakland International Airport (OAK) in Oakland. San Francisco International Airport (SFO) across the Bay and San Jose's San Jose International Airport (SJC) in the South Bay are the other major airports in the area.
By carBridges connect the East Bay with Marin County, San Francisco, and the Peninsula. Also, the I-580 connects the Central Valley with the East Bay via Altamont Pass in the east.
By public transportation
BART connects the East Bay with San Francisco, and Amtrak serves this region as well.
There is Golden Gate Transit; however, a lot of the East Bay doesn't really fit with the idea of bus services, and few people use the local buses for transport either in or around the region.
By carDue 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, the eastern portion of the East Bay is growing very rapidly and the traffic has gotten worse over the years. As the locals would say, "The traffic is like, um like, really bad here."
There are several freeways in the East Bay, including the I-80, I-580, I-680, and the I-880. However, the large number of commuters from Stockton, Tracy, the Tri-Valley, and the Fremont area to Silicon Valley can mean that southbound traffic is poor in the weekday mornings and northbound traffic is poor during late afternoons and evenings.
By public transportationThe western side of the East Bay has BART; however, the main purpose of BART for East Bay inhabitants is to get to San Francisco, not around the East Bay.
The local scenery consists of some rolling peaks, higher mountains, and wooded regions in the west. Mount Diablo sticks out like a sore thumb toward the north; in the south, generally the mountains are parts of ridges, so they do not stand out so much. The picture on the right is a fairly good example of countryside on the southern side of the East Bay.
Of course, there are a lot of residential areas, freeways, and highways in the East Bay, especially in the portions farthest west. With the exception of downtowns, most of these urban areas are boring or even dangerous, so if you're sightseeing, urban areas should generally not be your priority.
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.
There are some events, like the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton.
There are some events, like the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton.
The University of California, Berkeley (often called "Cal-Berkeley", "Berkeley", "California", or just "Cal") is world renowned for its educational standards and its liberal viewpoint of most things. There is a Cal State school in Hayward (CSU East Bay - formerly known as "CSU Hayward"). There are many two year junior colleges here but one of the biggest is Diablo Valley College, in Pleasant Hill.
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.
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.
- North Bay – not as densely populated as other parts of the Bay Area, but home to wine country and natural scenery.
- South Bay – this is where San Jose and Santa Clara can be found, and is known for being a major center of technology.
- The Peninsula – a suburban region on the west side of the San Francisco Bay and is a peninsula that goes from the South Bay to the Golden Gate.