Route 66 is a tourist attraction that has always had a place in Americana tourism. Its entire length spans 2,448 miles through Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. It was built in 1926 was one of the first official road systems in the country and is still a popular destination to this day. Even those who haven't taken the journey down Route 66 know it from popular movies, TV shows, literature, and even music, as it's been immortalized in a number of ways.
For those who don't have time for a lengthy road trip, though, fear not - there is a second Route 66 in America. However, this one is quite a bit different than the original midwestern road...
What Is Mini Route 66?
Deep in the Adirondacks region of Upstate New York is a unique tribute to the original Route 66. Although it's not nearly as large, it's still quite a sight to see... and an interesting one at that. When it comes to quirky roadside attractions, Speculator, New York, is one place that road trippers need to add to their list.
In addition to having an unusual name, Speculator is home to Mini Route 66, a miniature version of the actual road. The town of Speculator is home to a population of only about 300, and has since earned the nickname of the 'All Season Vacationland.' This miniature version took 14 years to build and was constructed by the hands of John Van Buiten and friend Richard Koert.
Here are some fast facts about the unique replica:
- None of the buildings or structures measure more than 96 square feet, because it would have required a building permit.
- The road is made with mostly wood scrap from a local lumberyard, along with oddities from garage sales and liquidation sales.
- The gas station was the first building to be created in 2000.
- The site was donated to the Historical Society of Lake Pleasant & Speculator back in 2014 before it was moved to the site it sits on today.
A Road Map Through Mini Route 66
When driving down NYS Route 30 (about 36 numbers off, but nevertheless), one will find Speculator Community Beach. Not far from that is the Speculator Pavillion, which is where Mini Route 66 can be found. For those who look past the lake and the playground, a seven-building replica can be found, and this is Mini Route 66. There, visitors can find the following buildings:
- Gas station
- Old church
- Post Office
- General Store
- Old School
- Ice Cream Parlor
While these buildings are impressive from the outside, they're equally as impressive from the inside. With vintage decor and items, each business has been brought to life to resemble a place that's lively and could be operational... even for something so miniature. For example, the General Store is equipped with an authentic elk weathervane, and looking through its windows will reveal that the shelves are fully stocked. While this is not a place one can pick up a few general items, it definitely looks like it could be!
The school features a wood stove as would have been period-accurate and the desks are all equipped with inkwells and desk bells. A look into the gas station reveals ]vintage gas pumps that are actual antiques, and the barbershop is equipped with mannequin 'barbers.'
Even though each building is not much larger than that of a backyard shed, it's believable nevertheless. Anyone strolling through Speculator's recreation area would likely do a double-take simply because it looks so realistic. It's especially impressive given the small size of the town, featuring a roadside attraction that has garnered so much attention over the years. Upon closer inspection, visitors will notice details such as the tiny locks on the post office mailboxes. A blue, red, and white barber twist adorns the space next to the door of the barbershop, and the mannequins really do look like they're ready to take their next customer for a close shave.
While the doors are usually locked for passersby who happen to stumble upon this small village, there are special events throughout the year that permit entry. This is also when visitors to the Route 66 replica will realize that many of the features in this town aren't just for show - and that many of them do actually work!
Visiting Mini Route 66
The replica can be found easily within the Speculator Community Beach Pavillion. There's not a chance one could miss it, and there's also a picnic area and a nature trail for the enjoyment of visitors. It's easy enough to spend an entire day in Speculator with this as the main event!