Road Trippers Go Out of Their Way for These 32 Convenience Stores

By   

View as:

Airplane Service Station
Photo credit: Airplane-Filling-Station-Knoxville-Tennessee/facebook.com

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.
Wall Drug Store in Wall, SD
Photo credit: Wall Drug Store, Wall, South Dakota by jshyun (CC BY-NC-ND)

WALL DRUG

Location: 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.

coffee at Wawa
Photo credit: Terinee B./yelp.com

WAWA

Locations: Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Washington, D.C., Virginia, 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.

Buc-ee's
Photo credit: Christa L./yelp.com

BUC-EE'S

Locations: 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.

United Dairy Farmers
Photo credit: UnitedDairyFarmers/facebook.com

UNITED DAIRY FARMERS

Locations: Ohio, Kentucky, 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
Photo credit: Kara M./yelp.com

STEWART'S SHOPS

Locations: New York, 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.

Cumberland Farms
Photo credit: CumberlandFarms/facebook.com

CUMBERLAND FARMS

Locations: New England, New York, 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
Photo credit: Courtesy of wikimedia.org

SHEETZ

Locations: Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, 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.

Pops Soda Ranch in Arcadia, Oklahoma
Photo credit: Karissa S./yelp.com

POPS 66

Location: 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. They also have a newer location in nearby Nichols Hills.

Paint Bank General Store
Photo credit: Courtesy of paintbankgeneralstore.com

PAINT BANK GENERAL STORE

Location: 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
Photo credit: Courtesy of foukemonstermart.com

MONSTER MART

Location: 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
Photo credit: Hollow-Mountain/facebook.com

HOLLOW MOUNTAIN

Location: 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.

QuikTrip
Photo credit: Richard R./yelp.com

QUIKTRIP

Locations: Oklahoma, Texas, North and South Carolina, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Arizona
For the nation's cleanest gas station bathrooms in the most states, look no further than QuikTrip, an Oklahoma-based chain of more than 750 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
Photo credit: Courtesy of ta-petro.com

PETRO COLUMBIA STOPPING CENTER

Location: 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.

Sinclair Dyno Depot
Photo credit: Sinclair/facebook.com

SINCLAIR DYNO DEPOT

Location: 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 Sinclair station in the Wisconsin Dells, where a 40-foot fiberglass version of the green dinosaur emerges from the convenience mart's brick walls.

Vintage Orbit Gas Station
Photo credit: Orangevale-Orbit-Gas-Mini-Mart/facebook.com

VINTAGE ORBIT GAS STATION

Location: 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
Photo credit: CaseysGenStore/facebook.com

CASEY'S GENERAL STORE

Locations: Iowa, throughout the Midwest and Appalachia
Casey's is a chain of more than 2,000 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.

Standard Oil Gasoline
Photo credit: Courtesy of wikipedia.org

STANDARD OIL GASOLINE

Location: 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 Service Station
Photo credit: Airplane-Filling-Station-Knoxville-Tennessee/facebook.com

AIRPLANE SERVICE STATION

Location: 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.

Love's
Photo credit: lovestravelstops/facebook.com

LOVE'S

Locations: 41 states
Love's is a family-owned chain of more than 450 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.

King of the Road Burger Challenge at Cookin' From Scratch
Photo credit: Cookin From Scratch/yelp.com

COOKIN' FROM SCRATCH

Location: Doolittle, Missouri
This Phillips 66 gas station on Route 66 draws motorists with a giant fiberglass kitchen mounted on a red El Camino visible from the highway, then keeps them around with homestyle country cooking and King of the Road Burger Challenge — by which diners who can eat a 66-ounce hamburger in less than 66 minutes get the meal for free.

Tower Station and U-Drop Inn Cafe
Photo credit: Courtesy of wikimedia.org

TOWER STATION AND U-DROP INN CAFE

Location: 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
Photo credit: Courtesy of wikimedia.org

R. W. LINDHOLM SERVICE STATION

Location: 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.

Time Travel Mart
Photo credit: Christine A./yelp.com

TIME TRAVEL MART

Location: 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
Photo credit: Courtesy of tripadvisor.com

AL'S OASIS

Location: 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
Photo credit: Paul L./yelp.com

HELIOS HOUSE

Location: 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
Photo credit: Courtesy of wikimedia.org

SHELL STATION

Location: 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.

RaceTrac
Photo credit: Nadia A./yelp.com

RACETRAC

Locations: Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, 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
Photo credit: Dustin M. R./yelp.com

JUNGLE JIM'S INTERNATIONAL MARKET

Location: 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.

Obama Gas
Photo credit: Piggybacking on a brand with good name recognition? by Myself248 (CC BY-SA)

OBAMA GAS

Location: Columbia, South Carolina
This gas station set itself apart by rebranding in 2011 in honor of America's 44th president, attracting media attention and fake news reports from the right that Obama was offering free gas in poor neighborhoods to curry favor in the midterm elections. Obama Gas remains now that the Barack Obama presidency has ended, operating mostly as a friendly neighborhood stop in a mostly black area of the city.

Teapot Dome Gas Station
Photo credit: Courtesy of tripadvisor.com

TEAPOT DOME GAS STATION

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

JACK COLKER UNION 76

Location: 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
Photo credit: Roy B./yelp.com

GAMBLERS GENERAL STORE

Location: 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.

Cheapism.com participates in affiliate marketing programs, which means we may earn a commission if you choose to purchase a product through a link on our site. This helps support our work and does not influence editorial content.