South Of The Border: The Tourist Trap Your Parents Never Wanted To Stop At

By Jacob Shelton
A jovial fiberglass Mexican laughs at South of the Border, a Mexican-themed amusement park, hotel, gift shop, adult toy store, and neon-heavy rest stop on the North Carolina, South Carolina border, July 21, 2006. (Photo by Jeff Hutchens/Getty Images)

Since the early 1960s, South of the Border has presented a challenge to all families making the trip south on I-95. Billboards with a cartoon mascot and punny jokes count down the miles to the attraction in Dillon, South Carolina. When the driver finally reaches the vicinity, there it is, viewable from the highway: A sprawling village of colorful faux-Mexican structures (including a massive sombrero high in the air) that looks like a fun theme park. It's not -- it's really just a rest stop with a dated, un-PC gimmick.

You can't tell that to the kids, though. They've been counting down the miles, chuckling at every bad joke on the billboards, and they're sure this overhyped place is a promised land of fun. The kids see Pedro as their new best friend, while the parents know Pedro exists to sell Pedro-themed trinkets and t-shirts. For decades, kids have wanted to stop at South of the Border, and knowing parents -- more interested in getting to the destination than stopping to play miniature golf or buy fireworks -- have tried to avoid it.

It's a landmark and an institution to be sure -- while there are other tourist traps out there, there’s not one that’s as gloriously outdated or tacky as South of the Border.

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