South of the Border: America’s Favorite Roadside Oasis


Located just south of the North Carolina border is a wonderful, kitschy tourist trap known as South of the Border. This tacky, delightful, slightly run down destination has caused millions of children to beg their parents to stop each year to see Pedro and all of the sights.

From the highway, travelers can see brightly colored signs, a water tower topped with a large, colorful sombrero, and a 97-foot tall statue of Pedro. There are over 175 signs lining the highways in North and South Carolina, cleverly and definitely cheesily, advertising this destination. Parents often hope their kids will be asleep or absorbed in a movie as they speed by. I know my parents did!

The first time I went to South of the Border was after I was married! My parents were the ones who never would stop. I’ll have to say, I was a bit underwhelmed once I got there after imagining it for all of these years. As a parent, however, I try not to deprive my own kids of this classic American experience. Entrepreneurship at its finest.

IMG_9195Here’s how it all started:

Alan Schafer opened South of the Border in 1949 as an 18×36 foot beer stand. The surrounding North Carolina counties were dry so he did quite well for himself. A few years later he added a 10-seat restaurant, and in 1954 added on twenty hotel rooms. South of the Border expanded from there in the following years. The roadway signs were all designed by Mr. Schafer and at one time there were over 250 of them running from Philadelphia, PA to Daytona Beach, FL.

Here’s a small sampling of what you can see and do if you choose to stop at South of the Border.

1.  World’s Largest Live Indoor Exhibit of Reptiles!!


2.  Refreshments for everyone! The ice cream is good, stay away from the burgers and Mexican food.

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3. Fun and unusual animal statues. These are scattered throughout the attraction.

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4. All the cheesy souvenirs you could ever want. And great prices, too!

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5. Camping! You can stay overnight in your tent here. Who wouldn’t want to do this???


6. Finally, a huge fireworks depot. People in the south love blowing things up and enjoy providing others with the opportunity to do so as well!!



Listen to your kids…Stop at South of the Border the next time you’re on the East Coast traveling to or from Florida. You might not be glad you did, but the kids will love you! Ole!



14 thoughts on “South of the Border: America’s Favorite Roadside Oasis

  1. I have never heard of this place but it sounds just like some places we have visited over the years. My kids love this stuff! If I was to mention this to them, I can hear Kris and Andrew planning a detour on their route home from Orlando in a few weeks.

  2. Oh, the memories these signs bring back! Would you believe that in all of our travels from NY to GA, NC to GA, NY to FL and back, we never stopped here? I’m so glad that you did, it’s interesting to learn the history, and perhaps the next time we pass we’ll stop. 🙂

  3. As always, your photos are so colorful and wonderful to look at. Makes me wish to want to visit there myself! I also enjoyed the story. It made the photos come alive. Great stuff!

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