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What is a Rest Area?

By Lauren Romano
Updated: May 23, 2024

A rest area is a location that is off of major roadways, such as highways and freeways, where motorists can take advantage of the provided services. It is a safer alternative then pulling over to the side of the road when a break from driving is needed. When driving, especially long distances, going to a rest area can be quite beneficial.

A rest area, also known as a rest stop, can offer places to eat, restrooms and a gas station. Usually located in one large building, there is typically several dining establishments that surround a central seating area where customers can eat. Many of these restaurants offer fast food such as hamburgers and fries, which take little time to prepare and can be quickly consumed.

When stopping at a rest area, you may find that the prices for food are more expensive then if you were to eat at a restaurant of the same name down the block from your home. While it may seem absurd to pay some of these prices, it can be more convenient then to have to wait until you arrive at your destination to eat. In addition, it can also be easier then driving off an exit and looking for a place to eat in an unfamiliar town.

A rest area allows the driver a place where he can stretch his legs and relax for awhile before getting back on the road. In some cases, there is even some grass where owners can walk their dogs on a leash. The patch of grass also gives dogs the opportunity to relieve themselves without doing so in the car.

If you are visiting a rest area, you will typically find tourist information there that could be useful. It can be found in brochures and pamphlets located on an information board that is usually near the main entrance. There may also be an area where you can purchase small guidebooks on the surrounding areas as well.

With all of the people traveling through rest areas every day, it is important to keep a close watch on your belongings, children and pets during your visit. You should never let dogs run without a leash or allow children to wander off alone. In addition, keep your personal belongings on a chair next to you if possible. Taking some simple precautions can keep your visit to a rest area beneficial instead of problematic.

WiseTour is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon343660 — On Aug 01, 2013

@Emilski: I agree with you on the scarcity of actual restaurants at what we would consider official rest areas. I think the author may be confusing public rest areas designed and maintained by the government and private travel centers (gas, food, lodging) located close to off-ramps.

Most rest areas only feature a large parking area, basic restrooms, vending machines and maybe a visitors center. Those travel centers built near the highways can have just about anything, from full-service gas stations to restaurants to hotels.

By Emilski — On Mar 07, 2012

I have to say I see that this articles states that there are rest areas that offer restaurants and food, but I have never been to one that has besides simply having soda and snack machines.

I have traveled to virtually every single state east of the Mississippi and I have yet to see a single instance in which there is a restaurant at a rest area.

I have to wonder if this is something that one would see on the west coast or even simply in the places out west that would not have as many stops available for someone traveling or if there are some across the country and I have simply not seen very many.

By stl156 — On Mar 06, 2012

I have to say I feel like there are some pretty paranoid posts on this topic of stopping at rest areas.

Fact is crimes can happen everywhere and this includes rest areas. Someone is just as likely to get robbed or have a crime committed against them at a rest area as they are at a gas station late at night.

Although it sounds like a rest area can be a scary place to stop at late at night, it is simply an irrational fear that people have that is furthered by the rare instances in which a crime has occurred.

It is not very likely to have a crime committed against you at a rest stop, as it is at other public places. It is in someone's best interests to be mindful of what is going on and what the potential dangers are, but they needs to set their fears aside and realize the actually likelihood of something bad to happen.

By titans62 — On Mar 06, 2012

@matthewc23 - You may be a little paranoid, but I do not fault you for being so. I have always been brought up not to stop at a rest area late at night, unless there is someone like a state cop present simply taking a break or parking there to assist travelers during his patrols.

I would like to point out that I would never recommend that someone stop to sleep at a rest area, as there have been murders at rest areas of people sleeping in their cars.

One notable example of this happening was Michael Jordan's father who was murdered while taking a nap in broad daylight in his car at a rest area.

This example just goes to show that something like this can happen to anyone and definitely shows dangers that can be associated with stopping at a rest stop in certain situations.

By matthewc23 — On Mar 05, 2012

I have to say that I have found all of my experiences to rest areas very beneficial as they provided a necessary break to the long car travels that I have had across America. However, I will say that I sometimes find rest areas to be a bit scary as you never know who you will run into, especially considering that no one is usually there at night.

I have heard stories that people commit crimes at rest areas against people at night and that it is not always a great idea to stop at one late at night, even to go to the bathroom.

I may be a little paranoid as far as what my concerns are, but I also feel like it is legitimate considering the seclusion a rest area provides as well as the fact one never knows when a crime will be committed especially at a place where the person is alone.

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