Orbit Gas Station
Orbit Gas & Mini Mart

Road Trippers Go Out of Their Way for These 30 Convenience Stores

View Slideshow
Orbit Gas Station
Orbit Gas & Mini Mart

The Mart Set

The first priority of most convenience stores is right there in the name — they're not trying to reinvent the wheel, just to provide a few cheap essentials in one easily accessible place. These mini-markets and frequently adjoining gas stations have become such a prominent part of American commerce and culture, though, that some have gained cult followings by going above and beyond in architecture and merchandise. Here are some independent locations and regional chains — including converted historic stations now offering helpful guidance and photo ops instead of goods — that have managed to turn themselves into road trip destinations, as well as handy pit stops for travelers.


Related: The Best Restaurants for RV Road Trips

Wall Drug Store, Wall, South Dakota
Wall Drug Store, Wall, South Dakota by jshyun (CC BY-NC-ND)

Wall Drug

Wall, South Dakota

 
Wall Drug is the pit stop that wouldn't stop growing, expanding from a run-down Depression-era pharmacy offering free ice water to a full-blown tourist attraction drawing more than 2 million visitors a year, usually on their way to Mount Rushmore or Rapid City. Wall Drug still fills prescriptions and offers free ice water and five-cent coffee, but numerous additions to the sprawling store include a chapel, fudge shop, children's playground, soda fountain, and Western Art Gallery Restaurant.

A Wawa convenience store front
helen89/istockphoto

Wawa

Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Washington, D.C., Virginia, and Florida

 
People obsess over this chain in the mid-Atlantic states. In addition to offering made-to-order sandwiches with surprisingly healthy toppings for a gas station, a wide range of above-average coffee options and great customer service, it's earned praise by offering fee-free ATMs, being early and effective proponents of touchscreen ordering systems, and having the nation's second best gas station bathrooms — make of that what you will.


For more great travel guides and vacation tips,
please sign up for our free newsletters.

Buc-ee's
Christa L./Yelp

Buc-ee's

Texas

 
Buc-ee's is a Texas chain that fulfills the state motto about everything being bigger. It has 80-plus gas pumps per location and department store-sized interiors, including the 67,000-square-foot New Braunfels location ranked as largest convenience store in the world. Its unique offerings include privately branded pastries, sandwiches, fudge, beef jerky, state-themed souvenirs, and butter-glazed corn puffs called "Beaver Nuggets." You'll know a Buc-ee's is coming when driving on the highway by its humorous billboard slogans, and you'll be relieved to know when you stop that Buc-ee's has the highest-rated gas station restrooms in the country, according to a survey by GasBuddy.


Related: 21 Things You Didn’t Know About Convenience Stores

United Dairy Farmers
Warren LeMay/Public domain

United Dairy Farmers

Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana

 
As the name suggests, United Dairy Farms specializes in dairy products such as milk, frozen yogurt, and ice cream, though almost always offering coffee, snacks, and gasoline alongside them. The store-brand ice cream sold in its 200-plus locations may be the state's best, and in 2017, UDF partnered with Cincinnati brewery Rhinegeist to make an IPA-based flavor called Tropical Truth.

Stewart's Shops
Kara M./Yelp

Stewart's Shops

New York and Vermont

 
Stewart's is an employee- and family-owned chain of shops (about two-thirds with adjoining gas stations) that makes and distributes most of the items found on its upstate New York and southern Vermont shelves, including potato chips, ice cream, juices, "Now and Then" reheatable entrees, and now hot foods from an expanded Stewart's Kitchen.


Related: How Gas Stations Have Totally Transformed Over the Past Century

Cumberland Farms
Cumberland Farms by Matty Balooch (CC BY-SA)

Cumberland Farms

New England, New York, and Florida

 
Massachusetts-based Cumberland Farms, an independently affirmed great place to work, was founded as a dairy farm in 1939. Now, it's a chain of 600 gas stations and retail stores — known locally as "Cumbies" — committed to converting to SmartPay and still beloved by customers for its hot food, HyperFreeze frozen drinks, and house-brand sweets and snacks. They're also known for offering clean bathrooms to travelers.

Sheetz Fresh Food Made-to-Order Entrance Sign
gsheldon/istockphoto

Sheetz

Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, and North Carolina

 
Sheetz is a mid-Atlantic and Appalachia phenomenon whose stores blur the line between snack purveyor and fast food restaurant far more than the average 7-Eleven with its "Shwingz" chicken wings, "Shmuffinz" breakfast sandwiches, and "Nachoz." It also really has a thing for using Z in company branding.

Route 66 | Pops Soda Ranch
Karissa S./Yelp

Pops 66

Arcadia, Oklahoma

 
One of the best single examples of Route 66's stylish art deco roadside attractions, Pops is a glass-walled restaurant marked by a 66-foot neon-ringed soda bottle and cantilever roof covering the gas pumps and parking area. Inside, walls are lined with more than 700 varieties of popular and obscure sodas for guests to try. 


Related: Route 66: Then and Now

Paint Bank General Store
Paint Bank General Store by Smash the Iron Cage (CC BY-SA)

Paint Bank General Store

Paint Bank, Virginia

Walk across an old swinging bridge to access this old-timey restocking point along the mountainous border between Virginia and West Virginia, where travelers can recharge with snacks, souvenirs, and even a round of horseshoes. The unique offerings here include locally made jams and jellies, a year-round Christmas shop, farm-fresh buffalo meat, and the Swinging Bridge restaurant.

Monster Mart
Fouke Monster Mart/Yelp

Monster Mart

Fouke, Arizona

This family-run convenience mart bears the likeness of a local legend, the Boggy Creek Monster, which is said to have terrorized the surrounding woods since the '40s and even inspired a schlocky horror franchise in the '70s. Monster Mart visitors can take pictures with the monster in plaster sculpture or mural form and buy souvenirs ranging from T-shirts to cryptozoology books.

Hollow Mountain
Amuzme L./Yelp

Hollow Mountain

Hanksville, Utah


Utah has no shortage of stunning red rock formations, but this is the only one with a convenience store built right into the mountain. Though the shop doesn't offer much more than souvenirs and standard fueling station fare, be sure to use the restrooms for a better view of the rock face in which the station is built.


Related: Lizard Attacks, 7-Eleven Wine, and More Fun Facts About America's First Convenience Store

QuikTrip
Richard R./Yelp

QuikTrip

Oklahoma, Texas, North and South Carolina, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, and Illinois


For the nation's cleanest gas station bathrooms in the most states, look no further than QuikTrip, an Oklahoma-based chain of more than 850 stores and sprawling travel centers in the Midwest and Southeast, as well as Arizona, and one of the first to advertise itself as open 24 hours a day. Features include heat-and-serve sandwiches and breakfast burritos, onsite bakeries and made-to-order kitchens, and occasionally conjoining fast food eateries.

Petro Columbia Stopping Center bowling alley
TravelCenters of America

Petro Columbia Stopping Center

Columbia, South Carolina


What do wearied road trippers really want from their next pit stop? A bowling alley, of course. Travel America's Petro location attracts guests with a 6,700-square-foot arcade and 16-lane bowling alley, plus a gun range simulator, free Wi-Fi, and a Quaker Steak & Lube restaurant.

Citgo Dyno Depot
Nessie V./Yelp

Sinclair Dyno Depot

Lake Delton, Wisconsin


Sinclair Oil's Dino the dinosaur is a mascot so iconic it even inspired a fictional equivalent in Dinoco from the "Toy Story" and "Cars" films. Fans of Pixar or kitschy fueling stations can visit a "real" dino at this former Sinclair station in the Wisconsin Dells, where a 40-foot fiberglass version of the green dinosaur emerges from the convenience mart's brick walls.


Related: The Weirdest Large Roadside Attraction in Every State

Orbit Gas Station
Orbit Gas & Mini Mart

Orbit Gas & Mini

Orangevale, California


This small fueling station near Sacramento is another relic from when gas stations seemed at the forefront of American architectural innovation, featuring a four-peaked "Googie"-style roof you can spot at least a mile away. The adjoining mart is modest and friendly, offering beverages, snacks, and ice cream.

Casey's General Store Gas and Convenience Location II
jetcityimage/istockphoto

Casey's General Store

Iowa, throughout the Midwest, and Appalachia

 
Casey's is a chain of more than 2,200 gas station convenience marts most beloved for its pizzas, which can be ordered hot or bought to take and bake at home. Other freshly prepared foods include cheeseburgers, pastries, breakfast sandwiches, and biscuits with gravy.


Related: 30 of the Oldest General Stores in America

Standard Oil Gasoline Station, Odell, Illinois
Standard Oil Gasoline Station, Odell, Illinois by Ivo Shandor (CC BY)

Standard Oil Gasoline

Odell, Illinois


In contrast to the sleek streamline stations found elsewhere along Route 66, this Standard Oil station was modeled with paned windows and whitewashed walls to evoke a sense of homeyness. After closing in the late '70s, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997 and now serves as a welcome center.

Airplane Filling Station
Airplane Filling Station by Brian Stansberry (CC BY)

Airplane Service Station

Knoxville, Tennessee


Brothers Elmer and Henry Nickle renovated their gas station in 1930 to resemble an airplane. The business-boosting ploy worked brilliantly, though the station has since been through periods of use as a produce stand, bait shop, and used car lot before being preserved on the National Register of Historic Places. It was renovated and reopened in 2016 as a barber shop.


Related: Creative Conversions of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Sikeston city with Love's gas station and sign on building in Missouri with convenience store
ablokhin/istockphoto

Love's

41 states

 
Love's is a family-owned chain of more than 500 country store and travel stop locations in 41 states — America's 18th-largest private company. The country stores are typical fueling station mini-marts, while the full travel stops feature adjoining fast food chains, trucking supplies, showers, and RV dump stations, a nice respite on some of America's most taxing drives.

Tower Station and U-Drop Inn Cafe
Tower Station and U-Drop Inn Cafe by Clinton Steeds (CC BY)

Tower Station And U-Drop Inn Cafe

Shamrock, Texas


Speaking of Pixar and "Cars," that animated film also helped immortalize this Route 66 relic in north Texas, which served as the inspiration for the Ramone character's midcentury-styled body shop. Once fallen into disrepair, it's been refurbished and bought by the city of Shamrock for use as a visitor center and chamber of commerce office.

R. W. Lindholm Service Station
R. W. Lindholm Service Station

R. W. Lindholm Service Station

Cloquet, Minnesota


This service station's claim to fame is being the only one designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright, built from one of his plans for the utopian Broadacre City. Thus it features all sorts of unique design touches such as a copper canopy, glass-walled observation lounge, and service bay skylights, though not much in the way of souvenirs or other attractions. The station is listed on the National Resister of Historic Places.


Related: 20 Bucket List Buildings in America You Need to Visit

Time Travel Mart
Christine A./Yelp

Time Travel Mart

Los Angeles


This "convenience store for time travelers" has two locations in LA's Echo Park and Venice neighborhoods, and both are unique in design and full of themed gifts you likely haven't seen anywhere else, from canned mammoth meat and dinosaur eggs to rearview "hindsight" glasses and stylish retro posters.

Al's Oasis
©Tripadvisor

Al's Oasis

Oacoma, South Dakota


Like Wall Drug, Al's Oasis offers a diverse respite and five-cent coffee from the road on South Dakota's Interstate 90. Travelers and tour buses can stop for souvenirs and sustenance from its grocery store or restaurant and saloon, or even stay the night at the Oasis Campground to enjoy Missouri River sunsets and walleye fishing.

Helios House
Paul L./Yelp

Helios House

Los Angeles


This modern Los Angeles landmark and so-called "gas station of the future" was built in 2007 with a roof of recycled stainless steel with 90 solar panels that reduce the station's energy consumption. The station also has a built-in irrigation system that collects and distributes water to drought-resistant plants on and around the gleaming gas pump canopy.

Shell Station
Shell Station by David Bjorgen (CC BY-SA)

Shell Station

Winston-Salem, North Carolina

 
Kitschy gas stations shaped like other things — a style known as mimetic or programmatic architecture — were all the rage in the '20s and '30s, when even Shell Oil got in on the craze by building eight stations in the shape of its yellow scallop shell logo. Only one remains — at Sprague and Peachtree in Winston-Salem, where it now serves as a primo photo opportunity and satellite office for Preservation North Carolina.


Related: 78 Weird Tourist Attractions Across America

RaceTrac
Nadia A./Yelp

Racetrac


Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas


Frequently ranked as one of the nation's largest private companies and best places to work, RaceTrac runs more than 400 uncommonly-large gas station retail stores stocked with more than 4,000 items. Customer favorites include its extensive frozen and cold beverage selection and ready-made foods for the road, such as breakfast biscuits and sandwiches.

Jungle Jim's International Market
Dustin M. R./Yelp

Jungle Jim's International Market

Fairfield, Ohio


Just off the old Dixie Highway, Jungle Jim's International Market expanded from a parking lot produce stand to an enormous bargain-centric food market anchoring a slew of surrounding retailers. In addition to diverse international produce and specialty grocery sections, it hosts events, a cooking school, and blowout summer barbecues.


Related: 18 Places to 'Travel Abroad' Without Leaving the Country

Teapot Dome Gas Station
©Tripadvisor

Teapot Dome Gas Station

Zillah, Washington


This teapot-shaped white clapboard service station in central Washington may look like just a cute photo opportunity, but also has an amusingly obscure historical origin story: It was built in 1922 to poke fun at then-president Warren G. Harding's Teapot Dome corruption scandal. It's been moved several times and preserved on the National Historical Register, and today serves as a souvenir shop and visitors center, but not a fueling station.

Jack Colker Union 76, Beverly Hills
Jack Colker Union 76, Beverly Hills by Steve Boland (CC BY-NC-ND)

Jack Colker Union 76

Beverly Hills, California


Originally designed in 1960 to adjoin Los Angeles International airport, this station instead ended up on Crescent Drive, where it stands out as a retro-futurist landmark with its spaceship-esque parabolic canopy swooping up over the gas pumps. Compared with the striking midcentury modern architecture, the store itself is nothing to write home about.

Gamblers General Store
Roy B./Yelp

Gamblers General Store

Las Vegas


You'd expect nothing less than the world's largest casino supply superstore from Sin City, and Gamblers offers just that, with an extensive customizable selection of gaming tables, cards, and chips as well as Vegas souvenirs and informative books on the art and history of gambling.


Related: 22 Must-See Vegas Attractions That Aren't on the Strip