Picture this: You’re on a road trip, making great time, when all of a sudden you feel a familiar rumble in your stomach. Though you can fight it for a few miles, those hunger pangs become all too real. What’s more, that gas tank is getting pretty low, too. Luckily, if you’re fortunate enough to be near one of these pit stops, your journey will be just as much fun as your final destination.
Buc-ee’s vs. Wawa: Battle of the Elite Gas Stations
You’ve probably heard of either Buc-ee’s or Wawa – which one you run into depends on what part of the country you’re in. If you happen to have lived or traveled in both parts of the country, you likely will take a side, but we’ll try to stay neutral and share the wonders of each:
In Texas (and Florida starting next year), Buc-ee’s is king of the pit stops. All stores are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. And the restrooms are pristinely clean. In fact, you might see one of the brand’s humorous billboards along the highway boasting about the bathrooms: “Restrooms So Clean, We Leave Mints on the Urinals.”
The New Braunfels, Texas location (between Austin and San Antonio) is the largest Buc-ee’s stop. Visitors can refuel and refresh using one of the store’s 120 fuel pumps and 83 toilets (you read that right).
And like every other Buc-ee’s store, guests can take home products like beef jerky, trail mixes, novelty candy, and salsa. Buc-ee’s most popular item is its “Beaver Nuggets” – caramel and butter-glazed corn puffs.
Meanwhile, if you’re on the east coast, it’s worth stopping at Wawa. The brand’s 720+ stores operate in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and Florida.
Fun fact: Wawa was one of the first stores to implement a self-serve touch screen for food orders to improve order accuracy. While guests can get gas and pick up a variety of traditional convenience store items, check out the Wawa-branded iced tea, soda, orange juice, and milk. For those that need a caffeine boost, Wawa has a wide variety of coffee, latte, and cappuccino flavors.
Even if you’re not hungry, try one of the made-to-order hoagies. If you stop by during the summer, you can pick one up at a discounted price as part of Wawa’s Hoagiefest. And who knows? You just may run into a professional football player, too.
3. Czech Stop
Located in West, Texas (yep, that’s the name of the town itself), Czech Stop is your 24/7 shop for bakery goods. Kolaches, sweets, cookies, and fruit pies – they’re all available to keep your ride going smoothly. West Czech Stop’s motto is “where delicious is our business,” and let us tell you, business is good. The stop offers clean restrooms and Shell gasoline if you need to do a different kind of refueling.
4. Casa de Fruta
Casa de Fruta claims to be “the world’s largest fruit stand,” and while it certainly has a wide variety of fresh and dried fruit, the name extends far beyond simply produce. Visitors can stretch their legs with a walk around the grounds, which boasts features such as a carousel, train ride, a small group of peacocks, and antique farming equipment.
For the hungrier (and thirstier) guests, Casa de Fruta also sports a wine-tasting room (errr, we are not endorsing this for a road trip stop unless you’re staying the night nearby) and a diner-style restaurant, with popular menu items like omelettes in the morning and burgers in the evening.
For a snack to take with you on the road, if you can imagine any kind of food covered in chocolate, Casa de Fruta likely has it available. The establishment is more than 100 years old, and it oozes with charm. Be sure to make a stop next time you’re passing through Hollister, California.
5. Cookin’ from Scratch
Not just a clever name, this Doolittle, Missouri pit stop will make whatever you order right from scratch. The most popular item at Cookin’ from Scratch is their signature pan-fried chicken, but guests can enjoy a wide variety of options like burgers, biscuits and gravy, or their “almost famous” Doolittle Club sandwich.
For the truly brave, the restaurant also offers a Route 66 “King of the Road” burger challenge. Participants must finish a 66 oz. burger topped with nine pieces of American cheese, pickle slices, lettuce, tomato and onion – and a side of one and a half pounds of French fries – in 66 minutes.
No worries if your appetite isn’t enormous – save the calories and just top off your gas on the way out.
6. Not Just Popcorn
Just off I-65 in Edinburgh, Indiana, Not Just Popcorn has more gourmet popcorn flavors than any other location in the world. Giant tins of more than 400 flavors adorn the walls of this small store, with unique options like dill pickle, saltwater taffy, chocolate mint cappuccino, fruit bubblegum and apple cider.
Travelers can also book a tour of the establishment, learning the ins and outs of creating popcorn, including growing, harvesting, popping, coating, taste testing, and packaging.
7. Alamo Casino and Travel Center
You can find five Alamo Casino locations throughout the state of Nevada. On top of the basic amenities like bathrooms, gas, and wifi, each Alamo stop has a casino to play all of your favorite card and tabletop games. Any pit stop is much more rewarding if you’re leaving with more money than you came with, right?
Even if you’re not in a gambling mood, Alamo Casinos are the perfect place to take a break from driving. Select locations have fitness rooms, chiropractors, and even barber shops. Nothing like getting a fresh cut to beat the summer heat.
8. Little America
As of the 2010 census, the town of Little America, Wyoming had a grand total of 56 people. Luckily, travelers from all parts of the country can take a load off at the Little America hotel. If you’re not spending the night, there’s still plenty that Little America offers within its travel center, such as a 24/7 convenience store, 16 fueling islands, a grill and deli, laundry facilities, and a U.S. post office.
If you run into car trouble along your journey, this pit stop sports a repair shop for all kinds of automobiles, from sedans to trucks. Pair that with a picturesque mountainous backdrop and it’s understandable if you take your time getting back on the road.