5 Underrated US Towns That Are Small but Spectacular
Big-city travel comes with bright lights, late nights, and maybe even the envy of your friends, but let’s be honest: It also comes with crowds to beat and expectations to meet. Smaller towns can be exciting in a different way. What will you find when you get there? What surprises lie in store? You’ll only know by going.
Fortunately, how you go isn’t a surprise. While Greyhound services every major city in the country, they can also get you to small — and spectacular! — towns ripe for exploration and discovery. From national-park neighbors to beachside escapes, here are five small towns that have a lot to offer the curious traveler.
1. Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
Greyhound stop: 356 E Appleway Ave, Coeur d’Alene, ID
Pronounced “core-da-lane,” this city of 50,000 is known for its natural beauty, sitting on the banks of Lake Coeur d’Alene and the edge of Coeur d’Alene National Forest. Though there are a few hotels just a five-minute walk from the Greyhound stop, if you want to be within walking distance of most of the attractions, catch a ten-minute cab ride to the downtown area by the lake.
Hikers and bikers will find lots of trail options surrounding the city — Tubbs Hill, for one, is a beautiful hike about a 15-minute walk from downtown. But Coeur d’Alene is a well-planned, resort-style town, and you can find plenty to do without even leaving the lake zone. (Think paddleboarding, kayaking, swimming, sunbathing, and lake cruises.) Area outfitters also routinely accommodate those who’ve forgone the rental car; Timberline Adventures, for example, will transport you to and from their zipline course, cables strung above the aptly named Beauty Bay.
2. Hot Springs, Arkansas
Greyhound stop: 830 W Moline St, Malvern, AR
A 30-minute ride from your Greyhound stop in Malvern and you’ll be in Hot Springs, Arkansas, the home of Hot Springs National Park. Soak in the thermal pools at the park’s historic bathhouses, hike forested trails for all fitness levels, visit the gangster museum, and check out the summer concert series. You’ll find all sorts of restaurants in town, but wherever you dine don’t miss the bathhouse-turned-brewpub Superior Brewery, the only brewery located inside a national park. (It uses thermal water to brew its craft beer!)
Base yourself in Hot Springs, where most attractions and hiking trails are walking distance from Central Ave, the principal street downtown. Along a section of the main drag known as Bathhouse Row you’ll find the Fordyce Bathhouse Visitor Center and Museum, where you can tour four floors of “Spa City” history and thermal bath culture. When your national park adventure concludes, it’s a quick ride back to Malvern to catch your bus home.
3. West Yellowstone, Montana
Greyhound stop: 30 Yellowstone Ave, West Yellowstone, MT
A bit of planning is a good idea for any vacation, but since the West Yellowstone Greyhound bus stop doubles as the West Yellowstone Visitor Center, you’ll have access to top-notch local intel as soon as you step off the bus. And while the big draw here is of course Yellowstone National Park and its one-of-a-kind geology and wildlife, you shouldn’t spend all your time in the park.
You’ll quickly find that the town of West Yellowstone is dense and walkable, with shops, museums, and quirky attractions at every turn. The Rendezvous Trail System, a popular cross-country spot come winter, is open to hikers and bikers in the summer — the trailhead is smack dab in the middle of town and winds for 20 miles through Gallatin National Forest. Another good option for cyclists is the TransAmerica Trail (which, again, goes right through town).
Happy hikers should head northwest of town to Horse Butte Lookout Trail, a four-mile round-trip hike best known for the historic 40-foot fire tower that offers views of the incredible local scenery and the bald eagles and osprey that live here. For pre- and post-hike fare, fill up on a hearty breakfast at Running Bear Pancake House and dinner at Firehole Bar-B-Que Co.
4. Racine, Wisconsin
Greyhound stop: 1343 State St, Racine, WI
The transit center where your Greyhound will drop you off is a 20-minute walk — or four-minute drive — to the Racine city center, which will put you right in the middle of the action. If you’re staying downtown, you’ll find loads of restaurants and attractions (like the acclaimed Racine Art Museum) within walking distance. Should you need to get around more efficiently, try out the city’s new scooter program, which launched this summer.
The Root River winds through town, and the pathway that runs alongside it is a popular option for hikers and bikers — hop on the trail just west of downtown. To the south is the SC Johnson Wax headquarters, the largest commercial building designed by famed architect — and Wisconsin native — Frank Lloyd Wright. His name is all over these parts.
Sun and sand-lovers should head to North Beach, consistently voted one of the best freshwater beaches in the Midwest. More than 2,500 feet of Lake Michigan shoreline welcomes swimmers, sunbathers, and volleyball players. Live music and Zumba sessions also take place on the beach all summer. Don’t be shy!
5. Kingston, New York
Greyhound stop: 400 Washington Ave, Kingston, NY
Two hours north of New York City lies the state’s first capital, Kingston. A small town in the famously beautiful Hudson Valley, it brims with rich history, culture, and architecture dating back to the 17th century. No rental car needed here — much of the area is easily walkable. (If you visit on a weekend, you can catch a short-and-scenic trolley ride to Kingston Point Beach from the downtown Trolley Museum of New York.)
Add the Hudson River Maritime Museum to your itinerary and catch a ride on a solar-powered boat. The museum offers everything from early-morning birdwatching trips and lighthouse excursions to sunset happy-hour floats and Indigenous heritage tours. For dinner, head to the steak and seafood specialists at Ship to Shore (walking distance from both aforementioned museums) and grab an outdoor table for some great people-watching. After dinner, stroll over to the waterfront to wind down your evening. No, this isn’t the city that never sleeps — but that’s exactly the point on this small-town America tour, right?