When you think of “South of the Border,” you probably envision sombreros, mariachi bands, and tamales in Mexico. But did you know that you can experience a small taste of Mexico in South Carolina? It’s true!
South of the Border is a famous attraction south of the North Carolina-South Carolina border that has grown to include entertainment, shopping, dining, and overnight accommodations. Let’s learn more!
The Famed USA Attraction “South of the Border”
Pedro, a Mexican cartoon character with a sombrero and sandals, welcomes visitors along Interstate 95 to Dillon, S.C. There isn’t much else here in this small southern town. But, “South of the Border” offers attractions, shopping, dining, and accommodations for travelers looking for fun and entertainment.
Glide over 200 feet in the air in the glass elevator of the Sombrero Observation Tower. From the top, you can peer down to see the entire South of the Border property. Pedroland Park is a family-friendly entertainment center with carousel rides, airplanes, bounce houses, and more. There are also two mini golf courses.
Reptile Lagoon is the newest attraction at South of the Border and features the largest collection of snakes, alligators, crocodiles, turtles, and other creepy crawlies. A portion of the $6 and $8 admission tickets goes to support the Crocodile Conservation Institute.
There’s no better place to grab a souvenir than at South of the Border. Pedro’s Myrtle Beach Shop has everything a beachgoer needs to enjoy fun in the sun. Pedro’s Pura Vida features activewear for the adventurer, such as motocross accessories, leather goods, T-shirts, and hats.
Mexico Shop West is the largest shopping center at South of the Border with gift ideas, memorabilia, and fun souvenirs. This shop also features the Hats Around the World boutique. The 97-foot Pedro statue stands next to his oldest shop, Mexico Shop East. You can drive through Pedro’s legs!
Finally, Fort Pedro Fireworks is at South of the Border. Travelers can stop in to stock up on artillery shells, rockets, mortars, Roman candles, sparklers, firecrackers, and more. The shop is open 24 hours a day between June 21st and July 4th.
Four dining options make South of the Border a perfect place to stop for a bite to eat. Grab a treat at Pedro’s Ice Cream Fiesta or sit down for a beer at Polanco’s Bar. Pedro’s Hot Tamale serves quick bites like chicken tenders, burgers, tacos, and Pedro’s infamous tamales 24/7.
If you’re looking for a family-friendly sit-down restaurant, The Sombrero Room Restaurant is your best option. It serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily. The menu includes light fares like chicken salad and grilled cheese sandwiches or larger entrees like a half-pound steak burger and BBQ ribs.
The recently renovated rooms at the Motor Inn offer weary travelers a cozy place to rest for the night. Book a standard economy room or a larger option like a two-room king suite. Each room has its own private, covered carport and a refrigerator while guests enjoy the amenities of an indoor heated pool, an outdoor pool, and 24/7 security.
Or if you’re traveling with your RV, the Camp Pedro RV Park & Campground is easily accessible off Interstate 95. Back-in sites and pull-thru sites are available, as well as 30-amp and 50-amp hookups. All sites are paved, and guests enjoy access to laundry facilities, bathhouses, and the South of the Border shopping, dining, and entertainment within walking distance.
Where Is the Famous South of the Border?
If you’re driving along Interstate 95 near the North Carolina-South Carolina, it’s hard to miss South of the Border. It’s located right on the border of the Carolinas in the Dillon and Hamer communities.
Highway 301/501 passes just in front of the property. From North Carolina, take exit 1B off Interstate 95 and turn left. From South Carolina, take exit 1 and merge onto US-301 South/US-501 South.
What Is the Story Behind South of the Border?
For almost 70 years, South of the Border has been a place of entertainment, rest, and fun for travelers along Interstate 95. It all started in 1949 when Alan Schafer built a simple beer stand called South of the Border Beer Depot.
Later, Schafer added a ten-seat grill and renamed the business South of the Border Drive-In. After motel rooms were added in 1954, the business adopted its present name, “South of the Border.”
After he built the grill and motel rooms, Schafer started importing trinkets from Mexico. He had gone south to Mexico to establish import connections and met two young men who ended up coming to work for him as bellboys. This is how the “Pedro” signs, billboards, and statues originated because people began calling the bellboys “Pedro.”
Today, South of the Border maintains its southern charm and hospitality. With its unique dining and shopping options, fun attractions, and comfortable places to sleep for a night or two, it has become well-known among travelers throughout the Southeast.
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Who Owns South of the Border?
When Alan Schafer built his 18-foot by 36-foot beer stand in 1949, he probably had no idea it would turn into a famous roadside attraction. It was a brilliant business move since it bordered dry counties in North Carolina.
Employing between 300 to 700 people, depending on the year, Schafer is still the owner of South of the Border.
Pro Tip: If you’re considering actually going south of the U.S. border, these are 5 Reasons to Avoid RVing in Mexico.
Is South of the Border Worth Visiting?
South of the Border hasn’t been without its fair share of controversy. But you can’t deny the fun family atmosphere this roadside attraction brings to a small community in South Carolina. If you’re traveling along Interstate 95 through the Carolinas, it’s a great place to stop and stretch your legs. You can grab a bite to eat or even stop over for a night.
Have you ever visited South of the Border? Tell us about your experience in the comments!
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