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The 7 Best Highway Rest Stop Areas in America

From an art gallery in West Virginia to a cheese castle in Wisconsin, there's more than restrooms and fast food at these highway rest stops.

(Photo: Courtesy of Iowa 80 Group)

Highway rest stop areas generally conjure up mixed feelings for most travelers. They can often be seen as beacons of light for road-weary drivers. A place to relax and fuel up (both our cars and our stomachs). But no matter how grateful we are for the momentary respite from driving, it’s hard to say that rest stops are places where we want to spend a significant amount of time.

But not all highway rest stops are created equal. Some have delectable food, others have great attractions. A few even sell (believe it or not) museum-worthy art.

Here’s a look at a few of the best highway rest stop areas across America.

Guilford Welcome Center

Guilford, Vt.

The Guilford Welcome Center is tucked into the southeastern corner of Vermont – a stone’s throw from the New Hampshire border and just five minutes north of Massachusetts. The welcome center feels less like a rest stop and more like a cozy retreat.

The post-and-beam barn was built in 1999 to pay tribute to Vermont’s agricultural roots. Inside, visitors will find work on display from local artists, businesses, craftspeople, furniture makers and galleries. Outside, are long stretches of green grass and a playground to keep the little ones entertained. On most days during the summer and fall, Safety Refreshment Coffee Breaks are held in the picnic shed. During these events, Vermont non-profit groups provide coffee, drinks and snacks for a small donation. The coffee breaks move indoors during the winter months.

There’s a lot to explore in Vermont. Fortunately, the experienced staff at Guilford can help guide the way. They’ll have all the necessary information on everything from maple sugar houses and cheese makers to camping, hiking and fishing.

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Tioga Welcome Center

Tioga, Pa.

You’ll find this Pennsylvania welcome center on Route 15 southbound, just seven miles from the New York border. The rest stop does a masterful job of embracing its surroundings. The rear of the building features large windows and an exterior terrace. These provide picturesque views of the valley and Tioga River.

After hours of driving, Tioga is an ideal spot to relax, rewind and refresh. It will feel miles away from highway travel.

Looking for some Northeast travel inspiration? Download Your AAA’s free guide on the best local road trips.

(Photo: Courtesy of Iowa 80 Group)

Iowa 80 Truck Stop

Walcott, Iowa

Iowa 80, located on the eastern edge of the state, near the Mississippi River, claims to be the largest truck stop in the world. Taking a look at a map of the place, it’s hard to argue.

Iowa 80 has all the services a person could need, even ones they probably never thought of before. The rest stop has a barber shop, dentist, chiropractor, laundry, library, gym, movie theater, and gift and convenience stores.

You may choose just to move in rather than pass by. 

Rio Grande Gorge Rest Stop

El Prado, N.M.

This rest stop on US Highway 64 is particularly noteworthy due to its proximity to — and spectacular views of — the Rio Grand Gorge. Visitors need take just a short walk in order to catch sights of the water, canyon and local wildlife. At 565 feet above the Rio Grande River, the bridge spanning the gorge is one of the tallest in the country.

The rest stop itself is well worth your time as well. Local vendors sell all sorts of crafts including rocks, gems and jewelry. The location also has sheltered picnic tables and a pet exercise area.

 

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Tamarack

Beckley, W. Va. 

Tamarack is unlike just about any other highway attraction: part rest stop, part cultural center.

Most notable is Tamarack’s fine art gallery. The David L. Dickirson Fine Arts Gallery showcases the work of more than 500 juried West Virginia artists. Every six to eight weeks, the gallery hosts a new and unique exhibition, giving artists throughout the state the opportunity to display their talents to the masses. The space proudly features a variety of subjects and mediums that truly represent the best of West Virginia. There are also more than 20,000 products for sale at Tamarack, ranging from jewelry to sculptures and much, much more.

Tamarack offers the best of Appalachian-inspired cuisine as well. Culinary events allow visitors to learn new cooking techniques and watch professional chefs at work. The education doesn’t stop at food, however. Tamarack has a resident glass blowing expert who teaches classes on the art form. Students can learn to make items such as a drinking glass, ornament or vase in just 20 to 30 minutes.

Mars Cheese Castle

Kenosha, Wis. 

Any foodie traveling Interstate 94 around the Chicago-Milwaukee area needs to make a pit stop at the Mars Cheese Castle. Since 1947, the eatery has been serving weary road travelers the finest meats, cheeses and sandwiches. It is the perfect place to refuel for the next leg of your journey.

 

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South of the Border

Hamer, S.C. 

South of the Border is more of a small city than a rest stop. You could easily spend a good portion of your road trip experiencing everything it has to offer.

You’ll know you’re close to the destination once you start to see the Sombrero Tower rising from the horizon. The 200-foot-tall tower was considered the world’s largest sign until just a few years ago. During the day, guests can take a glass elevator to the tower’s observation deck for a 360-degree view of the South Carolina landscape.

Back on the ground, there’s a host of other attractions including the El Toro Arcade and numerous shops and boutiques. If it was hunger that summoned you to pull over, South of the Border has numerous dining spots such as Pedro’s Hot Tamale for a quick bite, the Sombrero Restaurant and Peddler Steak House for a sit-down meal, and of course, Pedro’s Ice Cream Fiesta for a delectable dessert.

Planning a road trip of your own? Learn about exclusive Hertz discounts for AAA members.

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