Interstate Rest Areas TX to FL – Not Just Any Pit Stop!

We spent the last few days zipping along the interstates from Texas to Florida, and one of the biggest surprises has been the impressive rest areas in these states. These aren’t just ordinary pit stops with yucky old bathrooms. These are scenic parks with entertainment for all ages!

We first took notice of these incredible motorist havens at the Navarro Rest Area on I-45 in Texas. The building was very stately, and the history exhibits inside were worthy of a museum. Heck, even the bathrooms were elegantly decorated with really nice tile!

Texas Rest Area building on I-10

Navarro Rest Area building on I-45 in Texas

Outside there was a fantastic playground for kids that would make any community or school jealous. Further south on I-45, the Walker County Rest Area had an equally impressive playground (gotta give those kids a REST!). Inside, the history exhibits told the whole history of Texas.

Texas Interstate Rest Area Playground and picnic area

Mom and dad can relax after driving while the kids burn off some energy.

History exhibits in a Texas rest area on I-10

Go inside a rest area building and find — a museum exhibit featuring Sam Houston!

Behind the grand rest area building there was a beautiful pond!

Nature walk and pond in Texas

A pretty pond…at a rest area?!

Texas isn’t the only state with impressive rest areas. Driving east on I-10, an early morning stop at the Vinton rest area in Louisiana proved to be a fabulous opportunity for taking photos. It was located next to a large pond, and morning mist hovered in the air like a thick blanket.

Morning mist in a Louisiana rest area on I-10

Morning mist rises at the Vinton Rest Area in Louisiana.

A local fisherman suddenly showed up and began casting his line. Who knew a freeway rest area could double as a local fishing hole?!

Fisherman at Vinton Welcome Center in Louisiana

Locals come to this rest area to fish!

Louisiana is the beginning of alligator country for eastbound travelers. When we saw a warning sign at this rest area, we knew we had left the west far behind!

Alligator sign

Beware of alligators!

What a surprise it was later to find that this rest areas (which is technically a “Welcome Center”) has reviews on TripAdvisor!!

When we arrived in Mississippi we stopped at their first rest area and were given an incredibly warm southern welcome. I was offered a cup of coffee by some very lovely ladies at least five times! Outside, the flowering trees were in glorious bloom.

Welcome to Mississippi

Welcome to Mississippi Rest Area on I-10

Mississippi Rest Area and Welcome Center

Some of these rest areas make good overnight stops. Several were laid out like campgrounds with spacious individual sites for the weary, and a few had RV dump stations too. All had free wifi.

Mississippi Welcome Center rest area on I-10

A truly restful rest area at the Mississippi Welcome Center.

This “supersizing” of rest areas seems to be spreading east from Texas, and apparently Alabama is making every effort to keep up with its neighbors. When we got to their rest area it was closed for renovation — and the project looked immense!

We finally arrived in the Sunshine State yesterday, and Florida lived up to her motto and gave us blue skies. She also lived up to her reputation as a vacation destination when we walked into the building to find a party atmosphere. We were each handed a cup of cold Florida orange juice, and we found ourselves surrounded by families with kids. All of them seemed to be headed to Disney or the beach. There were props for photo ops with astronauts and beach scenes, and there were displays and games galore.

Greetings from Florida

I-10 travelers get into the vacation spirit at Florida’s rest areas!

We noticed one family messing with a video display, and suddenly realized they were getting a pic of themselves overlaid on a Florida backdrop that they could email or share on Facebook right from there. It was a selfie photo station!!

We had to try it too! We chose the sand castle backdrop with the bucket of water spilling on our heads. We hit the button for the pic, and then entered our email address. Bingo — it emailed us a Florida vacation brag pic!

My Florida Vacation selfie photo visitflorida.com

A Florida selfie courtesy of…an I-10 rest area!

Mark found the “Florida Recharging Station,” a bright yellow beach chair to get you in the mood for sunshine and beaches.

Florida welcome center recharging station

Mark checks out the “Florida Recharging Station”

By the time we left that Florida I-10 rest area we felt like we were on vacation!

We drove straight to the beach on the Emerald Coast, past all the surf shops and spring breakers at the bars. It sure didn’t take long for us to get into the swing of things on the beach, what with happy kids and grownups playing in the waves all around us, and savvy seagulls eyeing us up for snacks.

Seagulls at Pensacola Beach Florida

At the beach we are greeted by Florida’s REAL welcoming committee!!

We kicked off our shoes, and took a walk in the pure white sand next to the crashing surf. Wow! It felt so great to be in shorts again!!

On the beach in Florida

Ahhh… Florida! This is the best kind of rest area!

It was a long drive, the weather in Texas took us from freezing to dripping wet, and the terrible roads in Louisiana sent us flying (truly, the rig was airborne at one point!), but the southern hospitality at the rest areas helped us recover, and the sunrise this morning was totally worth it!!

Sunrise at a Florida beach

Florida sunrise.

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6 thoughts on “Interstate Rest Areas TX to FL – Not Just Any Pit Stop!

  1. OMG that Vinton rest stop picture is postcard worthy!!! (wait does anyone do those anymore?) Who knew the rest stops were so marvelous and I’m glad you shared so that those of us that may someday travel that way find these gems as well! Sure beats the pit toilet ones I’m used to here in MT (sometimes it is nice to have your own toilet in your RV).

    • I think having them double as welcome centers is a great idea. Maybe they can get different funding by doing that. AZ and CA have closed some interstate rest areas, but they could take a page out of the TX/LA/MS/FL books and turn them into welcome centers!

  2. Nice pics and great to see you in shorts again. Wow, you guys flew through some states just like a hurricane was chasing you or something. Oh, the good o’l days:) Love the rest stops and YES, wish CA and other states would get on the ball and upgrade their stops. I hope FL looks just like your photo on the beach when we get there in June. We have our shorts ready:) Happy trails!

    • Florida is proving to be everything we hoped (we’ve got PERFECT weather…for the moment!). It was worth flying through all those states to get here (nice to be able to go 60 mph rather than 6 on a boat!). We’ll revisit those states at a later date, though… Mississippi charmed us twice in the past, and we only saw a tiny part!!

  3. Woohoo glad to see you made it to Florida!! We did the same trip a month earlier and we should have waited for we didn’t find shorts weather until the Keys. We would be interested in learning about cheep or free camping in Florida though

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