Central Kentucky outside Lexington has a wealth of history, nature and attractions to explore. Here's a sampling, in no particular order, of places to see and things to do in the counties surrounding Fayette.
■ Fort Boonesborough State Park in northern Madison County reconstructs Kentucky's second settlement (after Fort Harrod in Harrodsburg) as a working fort. Daniel Boone and his men came here in 1775. Resident artisans perform craft demonstrations and give visitors a sense of what life was like for the pioneers. Visit: Parks.ky.gov/findparks/recparks/fb.
■ Duncan Tavern on the courthouse square in Paris was built by Maj. John Duncan, an officer in the Revolutionary War. Built in the 1780s of native limestone, the tavern contains a museum and the library of John Fox Jr., the Bourbon County native whose book The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come is thought to be the first American novel to sell more than 1 million copies. Visit: Duncantavern.com.
■ Camp Nelson Civil War Heritage Park in southern Jessamine County was a supply depot for the Union Army. But it was also the largest recruiting station for African-American soldiers in Kentucky, and the third-largest in the nation. Some 10,000 African-American troops were trained at Camp Nelson. A walking tour takes you to restored earthen fortifications on the property. Visit: Campnelson.org.
■ The Clyde E. Buckley Wildlife Sanctuary in Woodford and Franklin counties is the only property managed by the National Audubon Society in Kentucky. (John James Audubon State Park in Henderson is a state-owned park.) Check out the bird blind in the 374-acre sanctuary, where you can watch all kinds of feathered friends feed. There are also wooded trails to explore. Visit: Buckleyhills.org.
■ Operating from Woodford County Park off U.S. 62 in Versailles, the Bluegrass Scenic Railroad and Museum offers a train ride through rolling farmland. Special events are held throughout the year, such as the re-enactment of a Civil War train robbery, Halloween "haunted" rides, and even a mystery play staged aboard the train. Visit: Bgrm.org.
■ If you've never seen a car put together before, it would be worth your while to take a free tour through the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky plant off Interstate 75 in Scott County. Camrys, Camry Hybrids, Avalons and Venzas are made at the plant, which is Toyota's largest outside Japan. Reservations are strongly encouraged. Visit: Toyotageorgetown.com/tour.asp.
■ Another interesting manufacturer to visit is the Ale-8-One bottling plant in Winchester. The ginger-flavored soft drink was first bottled in 1926. Its name is derived from "A Late One," which was the winning submission in a name contest held that year. The free tour lasts 30 to 45 minutes. Reservations for tours must be made. Visit: Ale8one.com/tours.
■ No exploration of the region would be complete without visiting Berea, designated by the legislature as the Folk Arts and Crafts Capital of Kentucky. Visit the Kentucky Artisan Center off Interstate 75, where there's free admission but all kinds of quilts, baskets, glassware and more on display and for sale. You'll also want to explore Berea itself, where artisans are at work in their shops. Visit: Kentuckyartisancenter.ky.gov.
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