Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Travel

South of the Border: An Iconic I-95 Roadside Attraction

We made countless trips up and down I-95 between North Carolina and Florida during our time stationed at Fort Bragg. And on every trip we passed South of the Border.

You can’t miss it! If the giant sombrero tower or giant Pedro didn’t get your attention then one of the seemingly hundreds of billboards on the side of 95 did. This rest stop is bright, colorful, and lit up with tons of lights at night.

It took us 2 years to finally stop and look around this iconic roadside attraction and left us wondering why we didn’t do it sooner!

South of the Border roadside attraction on I-95
(Pedro, a Mexican bandit, is the official mascot of South of the Border.)

South of the Border History

More than 70 years ago, in 1949, Mr. Alan Schafer opened a beer stand and named it South of the Border Beer Depot. At the time, many counties in North Carolina were dry (meaning they didn’t sell alcohol) and his beer depot was very successful. He soon added other attractions, including a fireworks stand (which were also illegal to sell in North Carolina), a small restaurant, and a motel.

Business was booming and the business continued to expand. Mr. Schafer shortened the name to South of the Border and added a go-kart track, a gas station, and cocktail lounge. He kept his ‘border theme’ and sold goods imported from Mexico. By the 1960s his business had expanded even more to include a barber shop, post office, drug store, and the 104-foot tall Pedro!

South of the Border’s business is still steady today. There is an RV park, restaurants, a reptile lagoon, an amusement park, mini golf, multiple souvenir shops, and PLENTY of photo ops!

Things to Do

There are so many things to do at South of the Border! We never made the time to really do anything other than get gas and look around one of the souvenir shops. But I really wish we had taken more time to explore this iconic attraction.

In fact, being only an hour away, it would be a fun day trip from Fort Bragg!

Make sure you ride to the top of the 200-foot sombrero tower in it’s glass elevator!

Or look around the Reptile Lagoon – the largest indoor reptile display in the United States!

You can also check out the rides at the Pedroland Amusement Park. It would be great for pre-school and elementary age kids! My two were dying to try out the rides, but we were always in a hurry to get back on the road.

If nothing else, you can always stop for gas and a bite to eat at one of the THREE restaurants there. Or settle for a scoop of ice cream from Pedro’s Ice Cream Fiesta.

And don’t forget a souvenir from one of the SIX shops at South of the Border. My kids could have bankrupted me in the Mexico Shop West.

Photo Ops

And you can’t leave South of the Border without a picture (or 10) for the ‘Gram!

There are tons of colorful Pedros, dinosaurs, and a variety of animals to pose for pictures with all over the grounds of South of the Border. My kids loved climbing on them!

If you’re headed up or down the east coast on I-95, make sure to stop in and see Pedro!

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