Dillon County, SC (WLTX) - Just across the state line with North Carolina, South of the Border has been attracting visitors for nearly 70 years.
And while some call it a tacky tourist trap, Dillon County leaders say they're a large contributor to the local tax base there. Whatever you call it, South of the Border is an iconic venue that many people just can't resist.
"It is amazing," says one of those visitors, Patrick Joyce of West Virginia. "There is so much bright stuff to look at. I kind of want to run around like a little kid."
No doubt, if you've traveled along Interstate 95, you can't miss the large bright signs and a giant sombrero.
"I had actually seen it on the internet," Joyce said. "It made a couple of must see list and my parents are down here. I found out it was a short drive from where they're at so i said we've got to go."
South of the Border started small in 1949, but quickly expanded over the next 10 years. Motel rooms, restaurants and souvenir shops provide travelers a chance to rest and shop. something Darrell Lanier of Syracuse, New York took advantage of.
"Stretch your legs, relax, get something to eat, take a load off the kids. that was a good thing. they calmed down. (laughter)," Lanier says.
Andrea Wilson of Maryland had the same idea. after riding hundreds of miles with her kids...she and her husband decided to make a pitt stop here.
PHOTOS: South of the Border
"Well it's a nice place to stretch our legs,' she says. "I mean it's a tourist trap. but we're getting out and looking at all sorts of statues, and we've been in the car for many hours, so it's the perfect place to stretch our legs."
But others plan a longer stay here. The South of the Border motor inn has a wide variety of rooms and suites available. There's a campground site where visitors can cook their own meals over barbeque grills. They also have a banquet room that can accommodate up to 700 people.
Perhaps the most iconic image of south of the border is this giant sombrero. Standing more than 200 feet tall, it can be seen from over a mile away.
The sombrero tower is actually an observation post where tourist take an elevator to the top. you also can't miss the 97 foot tall Pedro, which stands adjacent to the Mexico shop and sombrero restaurant just off Highway 301.
Boyd Morris of Virginia says he's been coming here since he was a kid. He says it still has the same feel. "Looks about the same," he said. "I think the best part they haven't gotten to see is with it all dark. We're usually driving by when it's dark and they're asleep.Ii tell you what. it hasn't changed that much."
But what's old hat to one is a goldmine for others.
"I kind of expected one building. a big concrete guy, a big sombrero," said one visitor. "I had no idea it was this large and spread out."
Nearly 175 billboards can be found for South of the Border. The signs are placed every few miles on I-95 from Virginia to the Georgia state line. You see more of the billboards the closer you get to the place. While most of the signs are on I-95, a few billboards can be seen elsewhere. For instance, you may see a sign or two off of I-20. And a few busy highways also have billboards, including Highways 301, 501, 9 and 17.
At one time, 250 different billboards could be found from Philadelphia all the way down to Daytona.