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7 of the Quirkiest Road Stops in the U.S.

By Bennett Kleinman
Read time: 6 minutes

Whether you’re on a long road trip or taking a short drive through the countryside, chances are you’ll need to pull over and refuel before too long. While you can always stretch your legs at any old gas station, why not make a pit stop that’s far more interesting? America is full of unusual roadside attractions, from larger-than-life truck stops to vintage car museums. Heck, there’s even a castle dedicated entirely to dairy. So the next time you find yourself driving down the highway, keep an eye out for some of America’s quirkiest and most fascinating roadside rest stops — including our seven best picks below.

Iowa 80 Truckstop – Walcott, Iowa

Entrance to Iowa 80 Truckstop billing itself as the "world's largest truckstop"
Credit: Matt Fowler/ Alamy Stock Photo

2024 is a big year for this roadside trucking mecca, which is celebrating its 60th year in operation. Over those six decades, the Iowa 80 Truckstop has earned its reputation as the “World’s Largest Truckstop,” and for good reason — there are over 900 parking spots for trucks alone. 

Truckers can venture inside the truck stop — located alongside Interstate 80 in the town of Walcott, just a few miles west of the Iowa-Illinois border — and take advantage of a wide array of unexpected amenities. They range from dentistry to laundry, an in-house chiropractor, a barber, and even a movie theater. But you don’t have to be a professional long hauler in order to visit — the Iowa 80 Truckstop serves 5,000 customers a day from all walks of life. Grab a bite at the family-owned Iowa 80 Kitchen or buy some merchandise at the expansive gift shop to commemorate your visit.

The highlight of this wacky highway oasis, though, is the Iowa 80 Trucking Museum, a vast exhibit hall loaded with antique memorabilia and vintage trucks, showcasing the storied history of the American trucking industry. While the museum is open year-round, July is a particularly popular time to visit and attend the annual Walcott Truckers Jamboree. Highlighted by truck beauty contests and the trucker olympics, this popular celebration will celebrate 45 years of festivities in summer 2024.

Hollow Mountain – Hanksville, Utah

Utah's Hollow Mountain road stop carved into a mountainside
Credit: Jim West/ Alamy Stock Photo

Given its location between Capitol Reef and Canyonlands National Parks, you may assume that Hollow Mountain is a stunning natural landmark in itself. But in reality, it’s a roadside rest stop — and one of the country’s more unusual ones. In 1984, 2.5 tons of dynamite were used to carve out space for a convenience store inside a mountain in central Utah. The result was perhaps one of the oddest mini marts you’ll find, as you can purchase snacks, drinks, and beer all within the confines of a giant rock. Even parts of the ceiling are made from low-hanging exposed rock, so be sure to watch your head while winding through the aisles.

Tamarack – Beckley, West Virginia

Local art for sale inside Tamarack marketplace in West Virginia
Credit: Charles O. Cecil/ Alamy Stock Photo

The Tamarack Marketplace is known for highlighting artistry from local craftspeople in West Virginia. Ground was officially broken on the rest stop in 1994; by 1996, the marketplace was already selling works of art from 1,300 local vendors to the 450,000 visitors who had passed through. Today, Tamarack — located just west of Interstate 64 toward the southern portion of West Virginia — showcases over 20,000 works of art from 2,800-plus artists from all of West Virginia’s 55 counties, making it one of the premier places to go if you’re looking to support local artisans in the Mountain State.

Visitors can even try their own hand at crafting goods, like booking some time with the resident glassblower to learn how to blow glass. After a long day of driving you may be feeling peckish, so head over to the onsite eatery and try some of their legendary chicken pot pie or a fried green tomato sandwich, which has been delighting guests at Tamarack since it opened 30 years ago. 

Russell’s Travel Center – Glenrio, New Mexico

Driving down Historic Route 66 is a bucket list item for many Americans, and you’re bound to encounter many memorable sites along the way. But one of the more unusual landmarks along this legendary route is Russell’s Travel Center in Glenrio, New Mexico, which first opened back in 1971.

While this rest stop may appear to be fairly normal on the outside, the real highlight is the free vintage car museum on the inside. Upon walking in, you’ll feel like you’re back to 1950s America when you see the statues of iconic legends such as Elvis Presley. Highlights of the museum include the vintage chrome-plated vehicles, antique gas station paraphernalia, and classic car posters lining the walls from floor to ceiling.

If retro cars aren’t your thing, the onsite vintage-themed diner is known for serving up delicious hatch green chile sauce — a local favorite using New Mexican-grown chiles — to accompany any dish. Popular menu items include ribeye steaks and chicken fried steaks, which will fill you up and keep you energized for the long drive ahead.

Mars Cheese Castle – Kenosha, Wisconsin

Sign for Mars Cheese Castle in Kenosha, Wisconsin
Credit: D Guest Smith/ Alamy Stock Photo

The sight of this giant roadside castle along I-94 between Milwaukee and Chicago might come as a surprise. But once inside, you’ll realize what makes Mars Cheese Castle so special. The business first opened in 1947, though it wasn’t until 2011 that the building was fully renovated to look like a medieval fortress. This includes faux stained glass windows, suits of armor on display, and large feasting tables that are straight out of King Arthur’s Court. 

But the medieval-style decor is just one piece of the puzzle. When it comes to cheese, your options include everything from Wisconsin-made cheddar to international cheeses that are harder to come by. The store also gets a shipment of locally-made, farm-fresh cheese curds each morning, so be sure to arrive early and grab a bag for yourself. There are also plenty of craft beers for purchase, including brews from the locally-loved (and Wisconsin-exclusive) New Glarus Brewing Company.

Pops 66 Soda Ranch – Arcadia, Oklahoma

Giant soda bottle installation, seen at night, at Pops 66 Soda Ranch in Arcadia, Oklahoma
Credit: StockPhotoAstur/ Alamy Stock Photo

On Route 66 in Oklahoma, you’ll often find yourself driving for hundreds of miles and only see open sky. But then, you may notice a glowing beacon on the horizon — in the shape of a 66-foot-tall, four-ton LED soda bottle. If you see that unusual sight, that means you’ve arrived at Pops 66 Soda Ranch in Arcadia. 

This full-service eatery is best known for its vast selection of over 600 bottled sodas, pretty much guaranteeing that you’ll find a flavor to quench your thirst. Since the rest stop opened in 2007, the top seller has proven to be root beer, of which there are over 80 varieties sold in-house. If you’re feeling adventurous, Pops is also known for its untraditional flavor offerings, including teriyaki beef jerky and ranch dressing sodas.

Peggy Sue’s 50’s Diner & Diner-Saur Park – Yermo, California

Entrance to Peggy Sue’s 50’s Diner & Diner-Saur Park in Yermo, California
Credit: StockPhotoAstur/ Alamy Stock Photo

In 1954, a restaurant opened just off I-15 in Yermo, California, serving hungry drivers until closing down several years later. In 1987, a husband and wife team reopened a new restaurant in the same space, though the decor was anything but modern. Peggy Sue’s is a retro diner that looks straight out of the ‘50s — think vintage diner booths, a working jukebox, and a wait staff dressed in retro garb from head to toe.

The new owners hoped to recapture the classic feel of the original diner, and the menu takes that notion one step further. It’s full of dishes named after old pop culture icons, such as the Buddy Holly bacon cheeseburger and the Sid Caesar hot pastrami. And, of course, you can treat yourself to some old-fashioned milkshakes made from real ice cream.

If the 1950s vibes are unique enough, things get particularly odd outside. That’s where you’ll find the punnily named Diner-Saur Park, containing several 10-foot-tall metal dinosaur statues, plus one of King Kong. Peggy Sue may be the first — and only business — to combine 1950s retro with dinosaurs, so be sure to add it to your next road trip itinerary.

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