The Coolest (Craziest?) Hotel & Airbnb Listings I’ve Ever Seen (Part 1)

Joe and I love to stay at “different” places. From the hotel in London that used to be a train station, to Dromoland Castle in Ireland, to the hotel in Chicago that used to be home to the New York Life Insurance company, the odder the better. BTW, this included the capsule hotel that Joe promised we can FINALLY stay at when we go to Japan again next year.

Anyway, because we tend to use points & miles for a lot of our trips, we don’t have as many opportunities to stay at some places that just look AMAZINGLY different. Like these…

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Getting My Cheesy Kitsch On: Our Visit to South of The Border

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Drive up or down I-95 and after miles and miles of billboards promoting the place, just south of the North Carolina/South Carolina state line, you’ll find South of The Border (SOTB), a tourist attraction in Dillon SC, whose name is a tongue-in-cheek tip of the hat to its Mexican theming. A well worn tourist attraction since its humble beginnings as a beer stand 1949 (the just-north-of-the-border NC counties were “dry” at the time), SOTB runs on both sides of highway 501 and contains, among other things, a truck stop, a 300-room motel, several souvenir shops that sell everything from T-shirts to hats to fireworks to leather goods to beachwear and everything in between, a handful of restaurants, a 200-foot tall observation tower shaped like a sombrero, and the largest reptile exhibit in the country. Oh, and don’t forget the dozens of statues of animals such as dinosaurs, gorillas, dolphins, flamingos, etc., painted in whatever garishly beautiful color was the cheapest paint at the store that day.

For most people, SOTB is just a rest stop. For me, it was a vacation destination. See, I had
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I Played Mini Golf Here 30 Years Ago AND JUST PLAYED IT AGAIN!!! (It’s That Good!)

I’ve reached the age where I can revisit places that I remember from my childhood. Those places where you have a memory about something you saw, somewhere you ate, someone you met that just sticks in your brain for the rest of your life. I know we visited Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge, TN when I was about 14. I remember going to Dollywood (since I hit myself on the head when I stood up into a sign and almost knocked myself out) and I know we stayed at some nice hotel in Gatlinburg with a discount from the Entertainment Book. The only other part of the trip that I remembered was this mini-golf course. It was not a normal course but instead was built into the side of a hill. You got to ride up the incline and every hole went downhill.

It wasn’t until I sent a bunch of old pictures to be digitized that I found the photographic evidence of the place, from our trip in 1987.

You can imagine my surprise when we were driving on US-441 (the main road in Gatlinburg) last year and passed the same mini golf course. I think my reaction was, “That’s IT! I CAN’T BELIEVE IT! IT’S STILL THERE!” It was as if something from a dream suddenly became real. Unfortunately, we were driving past the place around 10PM and didn’t have the time or energy to stop. That was something we were sure to rectify when we made plans to return to the Knoxville area this year. While Sharon’s not a big mini golf fan, she is a fan of kitschy roadside attractions and I think this place also piqued her interest.

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