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10 of the Very Best Gas Station Stops in America

Competition is fierce and loyalties are strong for the best place to grab a snack and a potty break

spinner image an illustration of a smiling couple driving by a rest stop and gas station
Steve Sanford

A heated rivalry has been brewing for decades in Pennsylvania. Clear allegiances have formed. Regional identities have been established. A film to document the distinct divide was even in the works.

No, we’re not talking about a turf war over sports or whether to put french fries inside your sandwich. We’re talking about Wawa vs. Sheetz — a hotly contested debate over two gas station chains with large menus and roots in the Keystone State and its mid-Atlantic neighbors.   

With a recent Payless Power survey estimating that Americans spend an average of 20 minutes and $70 per trip at their favorite fuel-up spot, it’s no surprise that Pennsylvanians and many others around the country are so passionate about picking where to pump.

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Whether you’re looking for the cleanest bathrooms, the best food or a distraction on a long car ride, here are some of the best gas station pit stops in the country:

Buc-ee’s, Sevierville, Tennessee

spinner image vehicles fuel up at buc-eees gas station and rest stop in sevierville, tennessee
The exterior of Buc-ee’s in Sevierville, Tennessee.
Buc-ee’s

If size matters in picking your pit stop, there’s nothing bigger and better than Buc-ee’s newest location near Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This 74,700-square-foot behemoth is open 24 hours a day and has 120 pumps and more than 350 employees.

According to Today, it’s the world’s largest gas station — at least until Buc-ee’s opens a 75,000-square-foot location in Luling, Texas. The chain known for its brisket sandwiches and fudge originated in Texas in 1982 and now has dozens of locations in the South.

Kwik Trip, Kenosha, Wisconsin

For four consecutive years, Kwik Trip has ranked No. 1 on USA Today’s readers’ choice list of best gas station brands. In addition to their experience at the pump, voters weighed coffee freshness, bathroom cleanliness and snack selection. The Wisconsin-based company operates more than 800 stores in the Midwest, including its largest in Kenosha, and is known for its Glazers Donuts. Kwik Trip’s bakery makes more than two dozen different items each day, and its milk is sourced from local dairy farms and bottled within 24 hours of reaching their dairy.

El Carajo, Miami, Florida

spinner image el carajo gas station and restaurant in miami
The restaurant dining view from farthest end in El Carajo in Miami.
El Carajo

It’s probably safe to say this is the world’s best gas station/Spanish tapas and wine bar. After you fill up your tank, you can fill up on croquettes and paella or enjoy a glass of one of El Carajo’s selection of 2,000 wines. The charming full-service restaurant that’s tucked behind a gas station even has its own sommelier.

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Iowa 80, Walcott, Iowa

spinner image an exterior view of the iowa 80 rest stop
The Iowa 80 truck stop in Walcott, Iowa.
Mark Kanning/Alamy Stock Photo

The self-proclaimed world’s largest truck stop sits on 225 acres, has 100,000 square feet of retail space and serves 5,000 customers per day. Sure, there are gas pumps. But there’s also a barber shop, chiropractor and laundromat. In its nearly 60 years in business, Iowa 80 says it has served 35 million cups of coffee and more than 19 million eggs.

The Market, Charlottesville, Virginia

spinner image an interior look at the market rest stop
The Market in Charlottesville, Virginia.
SBK Photo

No food is better suited to the grab-and-go road trip mentality than the sandwich, and The Market uses local and fresh ingredients to make gas stop grub gourmet. Established in 1991, The Market, with five locations in the Charlottesville area, is operated by Tiger Fuel Company. Its signature sandwiches include the Montpelier (roast beef with cheddar and horseradish mayo) and the Jefferson (maple turkey with cheddar, cranberry relish and herb mayo). The local chain also has a Market Rewards program to save you money on gas.

Reighard’s Gold Star Service Station, Altoona, Pennsylvania

Reighard’s has been operating since 1909, making it America’s oldest existing gas station. The site, originally established as a blacksmith shop, was located next to the railroad line so fuel could be delivered by railcar. Owner George Hinkle began selling gas after seeing the appearance of horseless carriages in the early 20th century. Martin Oil Company purchased the business in 1978 and has been continuing the tradition ever since.

When Pigs Fly BBQ, Vista, California

The owners got started in BBQ competition in 2006 as a way to get cheaper tickets to the Stagecoach Country Music Festival. After winning first prize for brisket in that initial competition and having continued success on the BBQ circuit, the owners broke ground in 2014 on a restaurant inside a Chevron gas station. From ribs to pulled pork to beef tri-tip, When Pigs Fly serves award-winning barbecue from the side of a convenience store.

Hollow Mountain, Hanksville, Utah

spinner image trucks rest outside hollow mountain gas station and restaurant in utah
Hollow Mountain store inside rock boulder in Hanksville, Utah.
Witold Skyrpczak/Alamy Stock Photo

With a convenience store inside a carved-out mountain, this gas station in the desert is as much a photo op as a fill-up spot. According to Atlas Obscura, the roadside attraction opened on Memorial Day weekend of 1984, and it took more than 100 cases of dynamite to hollow out the mountain. Besides selling gas, Hollow Mountain has a wide selection of snacks and souvenirs. 

Russell’s Travel Center, Glen Rio, New Mexico

This 24-hour Route 66 pit stop with a diner, dog park and car museum is the perfect place for you (and your four-legged friend) to stretch your legs. The showcase of classic cars also includes collectible toys as well as Coca-Cola, Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe memorabilia.

Tower Station and U-Drop Inn Café, Shamrock, Texas

spinner image an exterior view of the tower station rest stop in shamrock texas
Tower Station in Shamrock, Texas.
StockPhotoAstur/ Alamy Stock Photo

The Art Deco gas station on Route 66, built in 1936, is on the National Register of Historic Places and was the inspiration for Ramone’s House of Body Art in the movie Cars. While the Tower Station no longer sells gas and now functions as a visitor center and home to the Shamrock Chamber of Commerce, old-fashioned gas pumps and a sky-high spire that says “Conoco” still remain.

Share your experience: What makes your favorite pit stop so special? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

 

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