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When Dr. Thomas Walker discovered a small gap in the Cumberland Mountains back in 1750, he and his associates unknowingly became the state�s first tourists. They liked what they saw, went back home, and told others.

And guess what? They came, too.

Walker and all of the other early adventurers never gave up in their quest to discover what was out there. When some thought they had gone far enough, Walker wanted to know what was just ahead.

Today, in true Kentucky tradition, we find ourselves pressing on, to see what�s over the next hill or around the curve. I do it, and so do you.

In my progression of writing books about fun places in Kentucky, a �bucket list� type guide made sense. After writing books on 101 must places to eat, followed by 101 places to shop, a book on places to visit seemed logical.

It�s difficult deciding on only 101 places to include, and exclusion in no way means a place isn�t worthy. If I were listing 201 must-see places, I would still have to leave something out.

In an effort to stir your curiosity, here are a few examples from my newest book, 101 Must Places to Visit in Kentucky Before You Die.

Covered Bridges of Kentucky
Years ago, Kentucky boasted more than 400 covered bridges. Records reveal that the first were built in the 1790s, but floods, fire, Mother Nature, and modernization have taken their toll. The 13 that have survived are well worth seeing.

Fleming County lays claim to being the State Covered Bridge Capital of Kentucky with three of the bridges. Other counties with covered bridges are Greenup, Lewis, Robertson, Bracken, Bourbon, Franklin, Washington, and Mason.

My Old Kentucky Dinner Train
This is the only train in Kentucky where you can ride and also dine in style. Based in Bardstown, it�s been around since 1988, and it�s definitely one of those things you want to experience at least once. What I really enjoy, other than the five-course dinner, is the closeness of the tables, which allows for friendly conversation with other travelers.

The dinner train is open year-round and also serves lunch.

John James Audubon State Park
You don�t have to be a nature lover to appreciate this 700-acre park, named after one of America�s most recognizable wildlife artists. The park�s Museum and Nature Center interprets Audubon�s love of the outdoors through his paintings, sketches, and personal memorabilia.

Audubon lived in Henderson from 1810 to 1819 with very little success as a businessman. However, his far-reaching accomplishments as an artist of wildlife and birds are what he�s remembered for, even in Kentucky.

Columbus-Belmont State Park
During the presidency of Thomas Jefferson, a fire in Washington, D.C., caused him to propose that the U.S. Capitol be moved to the centrally located Kentucky town of Columbus. His recommendation failed in the Senate by one vote!

This small town of less than 300 residents played a role in the Civil War because of its location by the Mississippi River. Forces blocked river travel by stretching a mile-long chain across the Mississippi, secured by a 6-ton anchor on the Columbus side. Today, that anchor and a 7,545-pound cannon are displayed in the park.

Yew Dell Gardens
The locals around Louisville and LaGrange know about this Crestwood paradise, but it�s a good bet most Kentuckians don�t.

This 33-acre botanical garden�s beginnings date back to 1941, when the Klein family set out to establish a collection of some of the most unusual plants found anywhere in the United States. They did. And more than 20 years after Theodore Klein�s death, local and national garden groups have stepped up to make sure this Oldham County treasure lives on.

World Chicken Festival
The last weekend in September, London is overrun with thousands of visitors to the World Chicken Festival. What really attracted me is that skillet. It is the world�s largest, weighing 700 pounds. It�s more than 10 feet in diameter, 8 inches deep, and has an 8-foot handle. It�s easy to see how it has cooked more than 40,000 chicken dinners in the last few years.

This event is all about food. Not just eating it, mind you. There�s also a cooking contest. Laurel County residents relish the fact that Colonel Harland Sanders sold his first fried chicken in nearby Corbin. And if that�s not enough, another fried chicken pioneer got started here. Lee Cummings, along with his uncle, opened Lee�s Famous Recipe back in 1952.


World Chicken Festival
London, (800) 348-0095
Last full weekend in September

Covered Bridges of Kentucky
Flemingsburg, (606) 845-1223
Maysville/Mason County Tourism
(606) 564-9419

My Old Kentucky Dinner Train
602 N. 3rd Street
Bardstown, (866) 801-3463
Reservations only, no children under 5 years old
Open year-round

John James Audubon State Park
3100 U.S. 41 North, Henderson
(270) 826-2247
Open year-round

Columbus-Belmont State Park
350 Park Road, Columbus
(270) 677-2327
Open year-round

Yew Dell Gardens
6220 Old LaGrange Road
Crestwood, (502) 241-4788
Winter hours: November-March
10 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday through Friday

Logan County Tourism

(270) 726-2206
Jesse James robbed a bank here more than 140 years ago, but this little town is much more than that. It has a charming town square that sets the stage for a tour of some 200 beautiful, historic homes.

Bernheim Forest
Exit 112 I-65, KY 245
Clermont, (502) 955-8512
Open: 7 a.m.-sunset
Closed: Christmas & New Year�s
Free on weekdays; $5 per vehicle, weekends. Beautiful year-round, this 14,000-acre park offers hiking and biking trails, fishing lake, and picnic facilities.


Gary P. West readily admits that he has never had an original idea in his life. �Why would I want to start now,� he says in reference to his Kentucky travel books.

�I just localized what Duncan Hines did nationally back in the �40s, �50s, and �60s,� West says. �Hines wrote travel books long before the days of interstate highways, and chain restaurants and hotels.�

West�s first book, back in 2005, was about basketball legend King Kelly Coleman.

�I try to write about what I think Kentuckians like to read,� West says. �Basketball was a given, and food was a close second.�

After Eating Your Way Across Kentucky: 101 Must Places to Eat, he followed it with a recipe book from the restaurants in the earlier book.

After those came Shopping Your Way Across Kentucky: 101 Must Places to Shop, and his recently released 101 Must Places to Visit in Kentucky Before You Die, $24.95, Acclaim Press.

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