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Don't-Miss Attractions in San Francisco's East Bay

Don't-Miss Attractions in San Francisco's East Bay


The East Bay has so much to see and do that even a lifetime here wouldn't be enough to explore it all. From wonderful museums to striking architecture to breathtaking natural scenery, the area has everything you would expect – and more. To get you started, here are the best places to visit in the East Bay:


1. Jack London Square

Jack London Square is much more than simply a tribute to an author. It's a vibrant, lively area full of some of the best Oakland has to offer. The beautiful harbor views give the feel of being on the coast even though you haven't left the city.

You can still get a drink at the First and Last Chance Saloon, where the young Jack London did some of his writing. If you're hungry, check out any of the wonderful restaurants located in the area. From the Southern-style food at Miss Pearl's to the creative Pan-American dishes at Bocanova, it's hard to go wrong around here.


2. Mount Diablo

If you're the outdoorsy type, the stunning Mount Diablo should top your list of things to do. According to the California Department of Parks and Recreation, Mount Diablo offers the second-largest view of the earth's surface, following only Mount Kilimanjaro. From the peak of this nearly 4000-foot mountain, you can see the Pacific Ocean, the majestic Sierras, the famous Napa Valley, and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.


One of Mount Diablo's benefits is that you can make your excursion as mild or as strenuous as you wish. There are several parking lots at different elevations on the mountain, meaning that you can drive all the way to the summit or park lower down and hike the rest of the way up.


3. Livermore Wineries

Livermore Valley is home to dozens of vineyards and wineries. Whether you want to buy a bottle (or case) to take home or simply want to taste California wines in their home territory, this is the place to do it.


After a day of wine tasting, don't miss the restaurants in the area. The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards and Cafe Garre at Garre Vineyard and Winery are consistently good choices that use the high-quality ingredients so important to the local cuisine scene.


4. UC Berkeley Campus

The UC Berkeley campus' trees, vast swaths of grass, and open creek make it a wonderful place to walk around or even enjoy a picnic. If you're interested in the university's architecture or history, take one of the guided walking tours.

Sather Tower, known more commonly as the Campanile, offers views of the surrounding area. If the weather is clear, take a trip to the top. At more than 300 feet, this tower gives you a rare opportunity to get a different look at the area.


5. Lake Merritt

Lake Merritt is called the “jewel of Oakland,” and even a quick visit will show you why. This beautiful body of water – which is technically a tidal lagoon rather than a lake – is located in downtown Oakland. Its scenery and wildlife stand in contrast to the surrounding urban landscape.


Even if you don't have time to walk the full distance around the lake, you can eat a picnic lunch on one of the benches overlooking the water. At night, the “necklace of lights” surrounding the lake lights up for some beautiful views.


6. Oakland Museum of California

The Oakland Museum of California will both satisfy and provoke your curiosity about the Golden State's history and culture. The exhibits here change regularly, but always feature something related to the state of California. Permanent collections include paintings and sculptures by California artists and pieces from California's long history.


7. Antique Shops in Martinez

The streets of downtown Martinez are packed with antique shops. If you're in search of a quirky antique or vintage piece to take home as a souvenir, look no further. Even if you have no intentions of buying anything, you can easily spend hours wandering through the various stores.


Start your search at the intersection of Main Street and Ferry Street. Head north on Ferry Street or either direction on Main Street to find plenty of these antique shops.


8. Telegraph Avenue

Telegraph Avenue, home to the infamous People's Park, was once the epicenter of many of Berkeley's riots and protests. These days, it's a quirky mix of UC Berkeley students, aging hippies, and tourists. The iconic part of this street is only a few blocks long, extending south from the UC Berkeley campus.


In these few blocks, you can see the variety of worlds coming into contact. Shakespeare & Co Books and the four-story Moe's Books serve not only students, but also the city's other denizens: the conspiracy theorists, the homeless poets, the self-proclaimed gurus, and the all-around bibliophiles. The restaurants and shops lining these few blocks are as diverse as the population of Berkeley.


9. Tilden

Tilden Regional Park has something for everyone. If you're visiting with kids, take them to the Little Farm to feed and play with a range of farm animals. When you're done there, stop by the merry-go-round and the steam trains.


If you're traveling without children, Tilden is a wonderful place for a day hike. On hot summer days, Lake Anza is a deservedly popular place to take a refreshing dip in the water. You can also visit the park's botanic garden, which has a vast collection of native plants.


10. Claremont Hotel


The historic Claremont Hotel opened its doors in 1915. Its fascinating history and folklore includes everything from narrowly escaping the Oakland firestorm of 1991 to supposedly being haunted. You can't miss it – it's that big, distinctively shaped white building in the Berkeley Hills. You can eat at one of its three restaurants or enjoy a luxurious treatment at the hotel's large spa.


—By Gretchen Holm
Gretchen Holm, a Bay Area native and major foodie, is the Guide to Oakland for About.com, a New York Times company. See her website at http://www.berkeleywriter.com.

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