Karla News

Mass Pike Service Plazas: Something for Everyone

ben and jerry's, Massage Chairs

Those coming into Massachusetts from Interstate 84 and going onto the 138-mile long Massachusetts Turnpike towards Boston first see the Charlton East service plaza, one of many plazas for something for everyone.

Upon driving into the plaza, travelers will see a visitor information center in a colonial wooden barn featuring a lot of pamphlets and information on all the walls from all parts of Massachusetts alongside two fireplaces with Halloween displays done by the Salem Witch Museum.

The room is so large, the fireplace is in the middle and brochures include information not just on hotels, bars and restaurants but on museums, things to do and see, state parks, agriculture exhibits, and much more.

The center is open seven days a week 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and is staffed by knowledgeable workers.

Outside the house is a plaque dedicated to the founder of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and a replica head and hand vice which was used during colonial times.

In the main service center at Charlton East, visitors will see a food court with Fresh City alongside Papa Gino’s, D’Angelo’s, LAVAZZA coffees, Auntie Anne’s pretzels, Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, Mc Donald’s with drive-thru, a Bank of America ATM, a Tiger Mart convenience store featuring souvenirs with the Massachusetts and Boston name, an izone Sunglasses kiosk, and outside the center, a large multi-island Exxon gas station with diesel fuel.

Fresh City has a lot of healthy alternatives and includes sandwiches, soups, and tortillas while Papa Gino’s specializes in pizza and D’Angelos features sandwiches.

Amazingly, the sandwiches at the D’Angelos I visited at the Ludlow West Service Plaza was quite fresh and not really that much more expensive than the typical D’Angelos at the mall.

I enjoyed a cup of a Carmel type coffee at LAVAZZA coffees and was impressed by their selection of coffees including the Cheesecake Factory cakes available.

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I could never imagine buying a cheesecake at a service plaza but it really is possible.

And anyone who has never been to Auntie Anne’s pretzels does not know what they are missing because unlike their competition, Auntie Anne appeals to all of those who are not satisfied with a simple pretzel but want a special pretzel.

A number of specialized sauces are available and pretzel bites are especially helpful for those who want to eat a pretzel and drive a car at the same time.

Ben and Jerry’s ice cream shops at these service plazas typically have the same great ice cream variety found at any other Ben and Jerry’s. A great treat for all ages.

And while McDonald’s is the typical roadside stop anywhere in this great nation from New York to California, sometimes you just want the good old faithful Big Mac, Fish Fillet, or Chicken Sandwich.

Those Snack Wraps are quite delicious, by the way, and I suggest it to anyone who is looking for something different for lunch or dinner.

As you can see these food choices will appeal to children and all types of adults.

Souvenirs at Tiger Mart included magnets, post cards, and stuffed animals and the store has a separate entrance allowing drivers to gas up, then park nearby to buy something quick from the convenience store.

Located in an area near LAVAZZA and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream is a wireless Internet café for business travelers, which opened in June 2006, with tables and chairs, raised up on small platform floors alongside AC electrical jacks.

Two plasma televisions are mounted above architecturally rendered fireplaces with a soothing décor featuring the colors of bright red, pink, and gray stone with sunlight streaming in from windows in the large cupola with skylights and large wall-size windows.

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On a recent weekday afternoon, I observed several businessmen with laptops utilizing this facility and I believe most would agree is much nicer than some business offices and more relaxing.

A small conference room with glass walls overlooking the Massachusetts Turnpike can be reserved for those looking to conduct a business meeting.

A part of the glass wall at eye level has a gray clouded area so that businessmen will not get distracted from those eating at the tables nearby.

These conference rooms were added not only to Chartlon East but also to Ludlow East, Blandford East, Lee East, Framingham West, and Charlton West.

This is the first time McDonald’s has provided conference rooms on a Turnpike or Interstate in the United States.

Massachusetts Turnpike Authority Chairman Matthew J. Amorello spoke in June marking the 50th Anniversary of the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System.

“When President Eisenhower signed the law fifty years ago today creating the Interstate Highway System, he envisioned a nationwide system of interconnecting, high-speed highways that would be the life blood of our national economy,” said Chairman Amorello. The Massachusetts Turnpike is the primary route for commerce and tourism in Massachusetts and this groundbreaking initiative between the Turnpike Authority and McDonalds to provide free wireless Internet service in our new Internet Cafes will allow business travelers a quiet, comfortable setting with free wireless Internet service that will save them time and travel costs by allowing them work right here on the Turnpike.

On the other side of this center food court area are tables and chairs with roses in vases on each one and cleaning personnel constantly walking through clearing off and cleaning tables, sweeping up floors, and in general keeping the place bright and clean.

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While most of the seating is located in the Charlton East center is located near LAVAZZA, other seating is located near d’Angelos.

A door on the left side of the center court leads to a group of red picnic tables outside along with a large directory sign listing all Mass Pike service plazas and restaurants, retail, gas, and services at each one.

For a better configuration, tables and chairs should have been centrally located between all restaurants but I believe for traffic flow for people, it was better to have the seating separated in an area where people wouldn’t easily run over each other.

Restrooms are at the far end of each service plaza, quite a walk from the main door but I guess this is so everyone can see all the restaurants and get a walk in after being cooped up in the car.

These restrooms are large, clean, and comfortable and well-maintained and massage chairs are located outside of them for a quick massage to relax back and neck muscles.

Several arcade games are located outside the restrooms for the kids alongside a machine that will bend your penny and imprint images such as “Massachusetts” with the Christopher Columbus boat, the “Red Sox” name, or the “Boston” name.

There is plenty of room in the service plaza and directly outside of it on sidewalks to stretch ones legs and get a decent size walk in.