Six Rest Areas Worth Pulling Over to See

Sometimes on the highway, there comes a choice: Rest area 3 miles. Next rest area 56 miles. No metaphor here, this is cold, hard math. (BV+EW)D+K/S

That’s (Bladder Volume + Weight of Eyelids) multiplied by (Distance to rest stop + number of Kids in the car) divided by your Speed. If your answer comes out to > the number of miles to the rest stop, it’s time to pull over.

Then are those rest areas that you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you passed, regardless of the outcome of the equation above. The places listed below are so interesting or out of the ordinary that they merit a stop regardless of your need for FREE COFFEE.


Vince Lombardi Service Area, New Jersey

Given Vince Lombardi’s famous tagline, "Fatigue makes cowards of us all," it’s no surprise that the famous Green Bay Packers coach has a rest stop named after him.

The facilities may be a letdown to some. "It’s incredibly boring," Vince Lombardi Service Area expert Keira Kordowski (who is a real person) says. "There’s nothing there. It’s like a trucker stop. Literally, a huge parking lot with a little Tiger Mart. It’s a park-and-ride for commuters."

There may not be lavish decor devoted to the hard-nosed coach who preached hard hits and hard work, but surely one can learn something about the man? "The rest stop is in no way an indication of Vince Lombardi or his career," Kordowski says.

A no-frills, utilitarian area designed to combat fatigue? Lombardi would have loved it.

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Any Rest Area in New Hampshire

So you’re driving to the in-laws but you forgot to get drunk ahead of time? Here’s hoping they live in New Hampshire. Although the New Hampshire Turnpike System does not have any gas or vehicle service facilities, there are two liquor store/rest areas each on the Blue Star and Central Turnpikes.

These are state-owned and operated booze distributors, so address your letters of protest to the State of New Hampshire. Blue Star Turnpike is located on the eastern edge of the state on the way to Dover, Central Turnpike is, you guessed it, in the center of the state, on the way to Concord. If your in-laws live anywhere else in New Hampshire, my bet is they make their own and it’s strong.

>>look for a cheap flight to Boston , located close to Manchester, New Hampshire

Underground Railroad Rest Area, Iowa

The Underground Railroad is famous for its transport of southern slaves up the eastern seaboard into Canada, but did you know that Iowa also played a major role in the Underground Railroad? Of course not. And so we have the Underground Railroad Rest Area, educating the dozens of tourists who pass through Iowa every month.

Located on eastbound I-80 15 miles outside of Walcott, the stop offers information on how underground railroaders communicated via the patches they sewed into their quilts. A Monkey Wrench design, for example, said (in quilt-speak) to begin storing provisions for the journey; whereas a log cabin pattern meant find shelter, dig in for awhile.

I submitted my Star Wars quilt to the exhibit to see what it would have meant on the Underground Railroad, but apparently it doesn’t work like that.

Hayward Rest Area, Minnesota

The picture pretty much says it all: this Minnesota rest area, located on I-90 by milepost 162, preserves the local vegetation, added a 3.3 acre wetlands for viewing the local wildlife and could double as Lex Luthor’s secret lair.

Winner of the 1996 Award of Excellence for Highway Related Projects, this rest area pushes the scope of what a rest stop should be, exceeding all expectations. All in all, it might not be a bad place to try your luck in case of a nuclear winter.

Among the amenities you’ll be pleased to find at the Hayward Safety Rest Area & Wayside are a drinking fountain, vending machines, a pet exercise area (also known as a field), and – hold onto your hats – flush toilets. As if you didn’t already have enough reasons to visit Minnesota.

>>book a flight to Minneapolis

Allegany River Rest Area, New York

The winner of the 2006 "Excellence in Highway Design" award in the category of "Highway Related Projects," the Allegany River Rest area looks like the rest stop that Sunset magazine would build for that annual "best places to take a leak" feature they don’t do (but should).

The real award however, was based on the "contemporary interpretation of a woodland theme characteristic of the Native American culture of the region." In other words, WWIHB? What would the Indians Have Built?

With a fire pit and seating stones, set off by the druidic color scheme, the rest stops seems more able to answer the question WWIHBBQ? Where Would the Indians Have Barbecued?

>>look for New York airfare

Chautauqua Lake Rest Area, New York

Part ski-lodge, part ballroom, the Chautauqua Lake Rest Area in New York state is the epitome of over-achievement. Between the Victorian architecture on the outside and the the arches and wood-grain trim on the inside, the place has an unmistakable regal air – which is, as you know, the rarest of rest area qualities.

Perhaps the only way to improve this rest area between exits 10 and 11 on Interstate 86, in the town of Ellery, would be if they added a ski slope. After all, the place already has maps, public text telephones for the hearing impaired and its own police station, although rumor has it that the area is patrolled by a St. Bernard with a roll of toilet paper around its neck.

>>book a flight to New York

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original photos, top to bottom: Payphone Project, Waymarking, Quilts & Pieces, Federal Highway Administration, Allegany River rest areas,
Chautauqua Lake Rest stop

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