An appealing aspect of San Francisco is the ease with which one can travel to other Bay Area locations. For those having exhausted the many highlights of San Francisco or just wanting to get a break from the city, you may want to give the East Bay a shot. Overall, the East Bay is an exciting place that offers a healthy perspective and vibrant culture, not to mention a great view of the city skyline, that you won't find in San Francisco. If you can spare half a day or more, take a 30 minute, $3 BART train ride to Berkley or Oakland to experience one the California's most diverse and livable areas.
One big reason visitors travel to the East Bay is to scope-out the Berkeley University neighborhood. Fair enough; it's got a young population, good food, affordable beer, nice parks, and the university grounds and architecture are impressive. Take the BART to the Downtown Berkeley station then walk toward the campus and Telegraph Ave.
More enlightening and authentic than you're average UCB student is the Takara Sake musuem and tasting room in Berkeley. Appartently, "It includes an exhibit of the historical
sake-making process, sake artifacts and implements collected by Takara
Sake USA, and a history of sake-making in America. The collection is the
only one of its kind in the U.S.A."
Oakland has several solid attractions worth experiencing. There are a few museums in Downtown Oakland, the Lake Merritt area and community is beautiful, and Jack London Square hosts a large farmer's market. Though nightlife venues tend to be more active in San Francisco, the East Bay boasts one of the best music scenes on the west coast. More obscurely, it is home to one of finest Columbariums in the world, The Chapel of the Chimes is free to visit and is the largest above-ground mausoleum west of the Mississippi.
So impressive it'll make you want to be burnt to ashes and put in a box after you die:
If you've got a car, one of the best ways to kick off a clear Friday or Saturday night is to visit the Oakland Observatory. It's a state-of-the art Science Center (like the astronomy-oriented sister of the California Academy of the Sciences in SF) posted high up in the Oakland Hills, and on Friday and Saturday evenings, some of the largest and one of the most high-tech telescopes (3 all together) in the Northwest are turned-on, pointed at moons, planets, and stars, and are made free for the public to look through into space. Drink and smoke discretely in your car or outside the Observatory Area. Though I've never see a cop there, there's always some kids running around (though for the most part, it's a wonderful and low-key outing)...
Simply, the East Bay is a great place to be, especially if you'd like to escape the tourist-clogged streets of San Francisco, and it would be silly to pass up a chance to visit if you've little else to do. A handful of GT staff live there, so feel free to ask us about about Berkeley and Oakland. At the very least, we'll be able to recommended some good bars.
The above pictures are from the below websites:
Lake Merritt: http://okin.files.wordpress.com/2008/02/lake_merritt.jpg
Taraka Sake Museum: http://www.takarasake.com/sake-museum.php
Oakland Columbarium: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Oakland-columbarium-s.jpg
Good article on it: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4176/is_20050530/ai_n15831011/
Chabot Space and Science Center - http://www.peralta.cc.ca.us/marketing/1_stories_images/merritt_chabot_space.jpg