Visiting The Just Opened New York State Thruway Rest Stops

New York State Thruway Rest Stops

Feature Photo: Brian Kachejian 2023

If you have been driving along the New York State Thruway for the past couple of years, you may have noticed that many of the rest stops along the New York State Thruway have been closed. The State has been very careful in which ones they have closed in order to not let drivers have to travel too far without finding one still open. The  New York State Thruway Rest Stop closures have left a lot of people wondering what was going on. Not only were multiple rest stops closed, but many of them were being totally torn down. The answer to that question was exposed when drivers started to notice the new frames going up where the old New York State Thruway Rest Stops had been deconstructed.

While it might have made local news in the areas where the rest stops existed most people, especially downstaters were unaware that in 2020, New York State began a project that called for a complete renovation of all 27 rest stops along the five hundred and seventy mile Thruway. The project would cost 450 million dollars paid for by a business group called Empire State Thruway Partners without any cost to taxpayers. On a recent trip I took on the New York State Thruway, I noticed that a few of these rest stops that have been closed for the past two years were now open. I stopped at Plattekill Service Area on the northern side of the Thruway on my up to Plattsburgh and the New Baltimore rest stop on the way back down heading south on the Thruway.

When I first pulled into the parking lot of the Plattekill Service Area, I actually had a very hard time finding a parking spot. Never in my entire life of driving have I ever had a hard time finding a parking spot in a New York State Thruway rest stop. It wasn’t like it was a small parking lot, they have a very large parking lot with at least a few hundred spots. The place was packed. It was a Friday morning around 10:00 am and the place was mobbed. Now the last thing you want to deal with when driving is taking a break at a rest stop that feels like you just walked into Penn Station. However, that’s exactly how I felt. It’s amazing how in New York when something new opens up the place is mobbed. The new Plattekill Service Area just opened in May 2023.

The Old Rest Stops

The old New York rest stops were in fact the very old. They looked like large cabins all built with wood. Most of these rest stops were built in the 50s, 60s and 70s. The first part of the New York State Thruway did not open until 1954. New York State Thruway rest stops were never that big. Most of them were filled with McDonald’s and Burger Kings and of course, recently Starbucks joined the party. However, newly renovated New York State Thruway restaurants are completely different in every single way.

The Design:

While the old restaurants had that Log Cabin feel, the new rest stops are made of metal frames and glass. It’s like one giant Shopping Mall food court. The rest stops are very spacious inside including couches comfortable chairs and much larger bathrooms. There’s plenty of space to walk in and out as the doors are huge, and the entrance hallways give people plenty of room to not knock into each other as they’re walking in and out of the building. One might think that COVID had a role in the design of these buildings, however, we have seen similar rest stops in other states years before COVID-19 devastated this country.

The Attractions:

While some may think that the modern-day architecture of these new rest stops plays a heavy role in attracting people to stop, it’s pretty obvious that the biggest attraction of all is the new food merchants that have been brought into these rest stops. Without a doubt the biggest one of them all is Chick-fil-A. People go nuts over Chick-fil-A. Bringing that company into these new restaurants was a no-brainer. Some may have questioned that bringing Chick-fil-A into New York State restaurants might not have been the best choice because this is a food store that’s closed on Sundays which is one of the biggest travel days along the Thruway. However, if you stop at one of these rest stops that have just opened up and see the lines at the Chick-fil-A counters you will recognize that it was a smart decision.

Chick-fil-A is not the only other big food merchant that was brought into these new rest stops. Big time modern-day fast food outlets like Shake Shack and Panera have also joined in. Of course, New York State’s rest stop in the modern world will not be complete without a Starbucks and they’re pretty much at every single one of them too. As it had been in the past with the New York State restaurants not all of them will offer the same food merchants. In addition to these rest stops hosting fast food chains like Chick-fil-A, Shake Shack, and Panera there will also be the return of Burger King, Dunkin, the addition of Popeyes, and even Panda Express has joined the club. Of course, what we are most excited about is the addition of Aunt Annies Pretzels. Nothing like a butter-infested heavily salted pretzel to wake you up. And those cinnamon ones are just so heavenly.

New York State Thruway Rest Stops

Photo: Brian Kachejian 2023

Rounding out the fast food chains in these New York State Thruway Rest Stops is the inclusion of New York State’s Applegreen Convenience stores. If you’re looking at that Chick-fil-A line that has about 80 people on it and saying no way, you can always walk over to the Applegreen convenience section and buy one of their pre-made sandwiches. They’re actually not too bad. With the amount of people that visit these restaurants throughout the day, the food is never stale because they’re constantly selling out. You have a great convenience section that also offers plenty of snacks and beverages and travel necessities like aspirin and more. It’s like a 7-Eleven inside a rest stop.

New York State Thruway Rest Stops

Taste Of New York:

If you have stopped at a New York State Rest Stop in the past 10 years you may have noticed the signs Taste of New York. New York State has made it a point to promote homegrown products. At many of these rest stops you will find small tables outside the rest stop filled with people selling fruits and vegetables and home-cooked snacks like brownies, cookies, and pies. I have stopped many times at these tables and I’ve always been delighted with the prices and the quality of the food. It’s a great way to get incredibly fresh produce and really tasty snacks for a good price. Additionally, there’s usually never a line at these tables.

Why A New York State Rest Stop:

There are some people who don’t like stopping at these New York State Thruway rest stops. They argue that they’d rather find a separate gas station, a Cracker Barrel, or another place to eat that is preferably not fast food. However, the New York State Rest Stops are so convenient because they offer gas and easy access to restrooms and food. More importantly, they are open 24 hours a day and are much easier to drive in and out of than searching for separate places off an exit. For the past couple of years, it’s been a little frustrating having many of them closed down for the rebuild. The convenience of these rest stops was severely missed. It’s nice to finally see them opening up again.

Photo: Brian Kachejian 2023

A Visit To The Just Opened New York State Thruway Rest Stops article published on ClassicNewYorkHistory.com ©2023

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