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What is that suburban commercial un-walkable McDonald’s-stuffed area that you would find off the side of a highway called?

Here’s the best image I could find:

Image of a highway

I pass by them and go through them all the time on road trips.

I’ve considered “sprawl” but it doesn’t really fit.

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  • It doesn't have a name.
    – TimR
    Commented Jul 1, 2023 at 20:48
  • Can you give a clearer description. What does it include? How does it differ from other areas? Maybe aerial photos, maps, Google Maps links. Your pic just looks like a fast food restaurant but I guess you're not wanting us to identify a Burger King.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jul 2, 2023 at 8:48

2 Answers 2

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That is a strip, defined by MW as:

a commercially developed area especially along a highway

Or by Cambridge as:

a row of stores and small businesses built together along the side of a main road

Depending on its size, it might also be called a strip mall.

MW defines this as:

a long usually one-story building or group of buildings housing several adjacent retail stores or service establishments

Cambridge gives a somewhat more specific definition:

a shopping area consisting of a row of stores, restaurants, other businesses and a place for cars to park, especially along a busy road

A larger stretch of this may be called a stroad, a neologism defined by Wikipedia thus:

According to Marohn, a stroad is a bad combination of two types of vehicular pathways: it is part street—which he describes as a "complex environment where life in the city happens", with pedestrians, cars, buildings close to the sidewalk for easy accessibility, with many (property) entrances / exits to and from the street, and with spaces for temporary parking and delivery vehicles—and part road, which he describes as a "high-speed connection between two places" with wide lanes and limited entrances and exits, and which are generally straight or have gentle curves.

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  • A strip mall normally has connected buildings, dedicated parking in front of the stores, and is not bisected by cross streets, as the stores in the photo are.
    – TimR
    Commented Jul 1, 2023 at 22:12
  • Strip is closer but it refers to a section of road with retail location after retail location. You can drive a vehicle down the strip. "Kids were driving up and down the strip in candy-colored Fords and Chevys..." google.com/books/edition/Center_Line/…
    – TimR
    Commented Jul 1, 2023 at 22:15
  • A convincing and well referenced answer that applies well to America. I don’t think we use “strip” in Britain but I cannot think of an alternative. It looks a dump but that word is too general and insulting to qualify.
    – Anton
    Commented Jul 2, 2023 at 7:23
  • The Cambridge lexicographers have not got it right. Close, but no cigar. google.com/…
    – TimR
    Commented Jul 2, 2023 at 21:15
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I think it is called “rest area”:

A rest area is a public facility located next to a large thoroughfare such as a motorway, expressway, or highway, at which drivers and passengers can rest, eat, or refuel without exiting onto secondary roads.

Other names include motorway service area, services (UK), travel plaza, rest stop, oasis (US).

(Wikipedia)

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    What's pictured isn't a rest area, it's a commercial strip that also serves the local community. A highway rest area exclusively serves travelers, there being no local access to it.
    – Jim Mack
    Commented Jul 1, 2023 at 18:57

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