South Of The Border
You know it’s time for a break when you catch sight of Pedro, South of the Border’s 97-foot-tall mascot. Wearing a bright, gigantic sombrero, Pedro welcomes you to a kooky rest stop where Mexican kitsch runs wild. Brimming with campy adobe buildings, neon-colored statues and wacky establishments, this 350-acre landmark is one of the most outrageous roadside attractions you’ll come across in America.
Kitschy Roadside Fun
The 200-foot Sombrero Observation Tower is the first thing you’ll see when driving toward South of the Border. It’s also the most popular attraction at this roadside stop. Ride the glass elevator and take in 360-degree views of the countryside from the top. You can also come face-to-face with crocodiles, snakes, turtles and more at Reptile Lagoon, the largest indoor reptile exhibit in the country. Pedroland will keep you entertained too with a Ferris wheel, bumper cars and two miniature golf courses. Grab a case of Blenheim Ginger Ale before you leave. Using a special recipe from the 1800s, this unique beverage is made with local water from Blenheim Mineral Springs and brewed right on South of the Border turf.
America’s Highway Oasis
South of the Border may be cheesy, but it’s got a quirky charm that’s hard to resist. Have fun shopping for corny souvenirs at Mexico Shop East and then try on all sorts of funky headwear at the Hats Around the World boutique. If you’re headed to the Grand Strand, stop by the Myrtle Beach Shop to pick up flip-flops, sunglasses and other vacation essentials. You can also stock up on pyrotechnics at Fort Pedro, one of the largest fireworks stores on the East Coast.
Steak or Sombrero
When shopping leaves you famished, refuel with a charcoal-fired steak or hefty slice of prime rib at the Peddler Steakhouse, housed in a circular building with a sombrero roof. Craving Mexican? The Sombrero Room Restaurant and Pedro’s Hot Tamale are just down the street and serve everything from tacos to nachos. Get your sugar fix at Pedro’s Ice Cream Fiesta for cool flavors under the Carolina sun.
There’s always something going on in Florence. Less than 40 miles from South of the Border, this city hosts the Pee Dee Plant and Flower Festival in April, the Kickin’ Chicken Wing & Chili Festival in October and the Pee Dee Fiction and Poetry Festival in November. You’ll also go nuts for the South Carolina Pecan Festival, which features pecan cooking contests, a classic car show and more than 200 food and craft vendors. The Florence Greek Festival is worth checking out, too, if you want to feast on souvlaki, enjoy Greek music and tour the town’s Greek Orthodox Church. If you’re in town during summer, don’t miss the silent auction of rare NASCAR memorabilia at the Darlington Car Hauler Parade and RaceFest.
South of the Border may have come from the 1950s but that doesn’t mean the area is lacking in history. Just a few miles south is the town of Dillon. Spend the day exploring the downtown core, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Home to 60 buildings from the early 20th century, this district showcases a variety of architectural styles ranging from neoclassical to late Victorian. Continue on I-95 until you reach the Dillon County Museum in Latta. Housed in a restored dental office, this museum traces the history of the area, using military memorabilia, old medical equipment, railroad relics and other historical items. Nearby is Columns Plantation, a Greek Revival manor house that hosts a Civil War reenactment of the Skirmish at Gamble’s Hotel every March.
Wild and Scenic River
Lumber River State Park is situated on a National Wild and Scenic River on the North Carolina side of the border. The angling and paddling opportunities here are first-class and worth the detour from Interstate 95. Cast a line from the pier or riverbank to catch largemouth bass and black crappie or jump in a kayak to embark on 24 possible float trips on the blackwater river. Park rangers offer paddling and fishing trips.
Adventures in the Sandhills
Stretch your legs and get some exercise at Little Pee Dee State Park. Located 15 miles southeast from South of the Border in the Sandhills region, this park has all the amenities you need including a boat ramp, playground, campsites and picnic areas. Go for a hike on the 1.3-mile Beaver Pond Nature Trail, fish for bream, bass and catfish in Lake Norton or cycle on the paved park roads. Before you leave, take some time to admire Carolina Bay, a unique geological depression not normally found in the Atlantic Coastal Plain. A variety of wildlife can be viewed in the Great Pee Dee River Heritage Preserve and Wildlife Management Area. Drive down dirt roads or sail on the Pee Dee River for a chance to spot foxes, bobcats, river otters, herons and more.
For More Information
South of the Border
South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism