Ours may be a small state, but when it comes to out-of-the-way, overlooked or off-the-beaten path attractions, it has more than its fair share of offerings. From small museums with mind-boggling holdings to stunning parks and a breathtaking waterfall, we’re constantly amazed at the amount of wonderful places that fly under the radar in our state. In the list that follows, we’ve highlighted some of these destinations. If we’ve missed your favorite hidden gem, let us know and we’ll try to visit it soon.

Cathedral Pines, Cornwall

Until you’ve seen one with your own eyes, and walked around in one, it’s difficult to convey the grandeur of an old-growth forest. To walk amid ancient trees is to see a landscape now mostly gone to centuries of logging, and to understand why some have chained themselves to trees to stop them being cut down. One of the last sites of old-growth forest in New England is in Cornwall, known as Cathedral Pines. The 42-acre plot has been owned by The Nature Conservancy since 1967, when it was donated by a family who had originally bought the land in 1883 to save it from logging. While tornadoes in 1989 tragically wrecked a large part of the preserve, the pines that still stand are beautiful to behold.

Kouros Sculpture Center, Ridgefield

The heart and soul of this place is the outdoor sculpture garden, where environmental work by established as well as emerging sculptors has been the focus for more than 20 years. The sculptures on exhibit span a variety of mediums and styles, and were created by 50 artists. Many interact with the rural backdrop of sloping fields, patios and gardens. Guests will find works like Hans van de Bovenkamp’s Dance, a 10-foot-high monolith made in 1999 of stainless steel. Some sculptures are in open fields, others are tucked into intimate corners, or under the boughs of nearby trees, and are designed to utilize the topography and the hourly changes of light and shadow. In addition, there are paintings, photographs and small sculptures on exhibit indoors. 203-438-7636, kourosgallery.com

American Museum of Tort Law, Winsted

It has a name that could scare away even the most ardent seeker of out-of-the-way cultural attractions. But don’t be fooled; the Museum of Tort Law provides a dynamic and fascinating celebration of the American legal system. Founded in 2015 by Ralph Nader, a native of Winsted, it is a celebration of tort law (the law of compensation for wrongfully inflicted injuries) and tells the story of some of America’s most important lawsuits, framing this litigation in David-vs.-Goliath terms. Comic book-esque illustrations depict legal battles with cigarette companies, toy manufacturers and even McDonald’s (yes, the museum teaches us, the coffee really was too hot). The museum’s centerpiece is a bright red Corvair, the car that Nader famously exposed as “unsafe at any speed.” 860-379-0505, tortmuseum.org

Fort Griswold, Groton

If you need another reason to hate Benedict Arnold, a visit here will do it. In 1781, Arnold, an American general who famously switched to the British side, led a raid on New London and Groton that resulted in the massacre of more than 80 troops at this fort across the Thames River in Groton. There is a memorial to these fallen soldiers, and guests can wander at will through the remains of the structure, which is among the best examples of a Revolutionary War fort still in existence. The Ebenezer Avery House, which sheltered the wounded after the battle, is also on the grounds. The site is part of the Thames River Heritage Park, which connects the fort with City Pier in New London and Fort Trumbull across the river by means of a water ferry running seasonally Friday, Saturday and Sunday. fortgriswold.org

Connecticut Air & Space Center, Stratford

Housed within a former aerospace factory and across the street from Igor I. Sikorsky Memorial Airport, the Connecticut Air & Space Center has the feel of a top-secret site. The property is owned by the federal government. As a result, people under age 18 are not permitted on the site, and all visitors must stop by a security building at 550 Main St. around the corner from the museum, for a quick safety briefing before being allowed access (don’t worry, it’s safe!). Once they get “clearance,” guests are rewarded with an engrossing immersion in Connecticut’s rich aerospace history: Igor Sikorsky developed the helicopter across the street, Charles Lindbergh kept his plane nearby for a time, a line of flying saucer-like planes were briefly planned in Stratford. And, of course, Gustave Whitehead — at least according to any aviation historians in Connecticut worth their salt — beat the Wright brothers to the air. This history comes alive thanks to the showstopping restorations of many historic aircraft featured at the center. Last May, the center held a groundbreaking ceremony for the first phase of restoration on the historic Curtiss Hangar, across the street from the center. Once this restoration is complete, the center will further expand its holdings and, hopefully, its visibility. 203-380-1400, cascstratford.wordpress.com

Institute for American Indian Studies, Washington

Since forming in 1975, the Institute for American Indian Studies — formerly the American Indian Archaeological Institute — has been steadfast in its devotion to recovering New England’s once-largely-unknown indigenous history, surveying or excavating more than 500 sites. The Institute’s accomplishments include the discovery of a 10,000-year-old camp site in Washington, the earliest known archaeological site in the state. Along the way the organization has been equally steadfast in its efforts to share this history with engrossing, hands-on exhibits. The institute is home to a replicated Algonkian village, a simulated archaeological site, nature trails and plenty more indoor and outdoor exhibits. The primary exhibit, Quinnetukut: Our Homeland, Our Story, follows the fascinating 10,000-year saga of Connecticut’s Native American peoples from the distant past to today. 860-868-0518, iaismuseum.org

Connecticut River Museum, Essex

Dedicated to New England’s great river, the museum is housed in an 1878 Steamboat Dock building and along its surrounding docks. Guests can take an “art walk” and trace the river’s 410-mile course from northern New Hampshire to Long Island Sound; climb aboard a replica of the Turtle, the world’s first submarine used during the American Revolution; learn about the 1814 British raid on Essex; follow the historic evolution of steamboats and wooden ships; and even explore the river by sail by booking an afternoon or sunset cruise on the schooner Mary E, from June through October. Though well known among Connecticut River and maritime enthusiasts, this excellent museum is too often overlooked. 860-767-8269, ctrivermuseum.org

Fairy Doors, Putnam

Keep your eyes peeled in Putnam for these tiny but intricate gateways to the “fairy world.” Along the town’s Main Street there are 12 little doors hidden in plain sight. Each door represents one of six different American cities — New York, Chicago, Boston, Seattle, Nashville and New Orleans. They range in style from the “Horseshoe Door” of Nashville to the “Day of the Dead Door” inspired by New Orleans. Visitors can look under each nook and cranny to find them all and check them off a downloadable door guide. Last year, Putnam’s First Fridays summer concert series celebrated each of the cities honored by the various doors. ctvisit.com/articles/guide-putnams-fairy-doors

Putnam Memorial State Park, Redding

Billed as “Connecticut’s Valley Forge,” Putnam Memorial State Park is the oldest state park in Connecticut. It is located on the site of the winter encampment of Gen. Israel Putnam’s Continental troops, who stayed on the grounds from December 1778 to May 1779. Guests can learn more about this Revolutionary history and the site’s archaeological surveys at the visitor center, museum and reconstructed camp buildings or by following in the footsteps of those who fought to form this country, on an interpretive trail. Beyond the history, visitors can enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking trails, ice skating in the winter and pond fishing in the warmer months. 203-938-2357, putnampark.org

Mattatuck Museum, Waterbury

In 2013, 215 years after his death, the remains of a Waterbury man named Fortune were laid to rest. A slave during his life, Fortune was considered the property of Dr. Preserved Porter, who, after Fortune’s death and without the man’s consent, preserved his skeleton for scientific study. After being passed down in the Porter family for several generations, Fortune’s remains were donated to the Mattatuck Museum. Beginning in the 1990s, the museum and the African American History Project, a community advisory panel, investigated Fortune’s story. After learning his history, they organized his long-overdue burial, which achieved national attention. Fortune’s story is one of the many bits of hidden history that can be discovered at the Mattatuck Museum, a rich tapestry of cultural and artistic heritage focused on the Naugatuck Valley and the artists of Connecticut. Its art galleries display the work of American masters associated with Connecticut, including Anni Albers, Alexander Calder and Frederic Church. The institution presents 25 changing exhibitions every year featuring past and contemporary artists. It is also home to a button gallery displaying 10,000 miniature works of art collected from around the globe, donated by the Waterbury Companies (formerly the Waterbury Button Co.). 203-753-0381, mattmuseum.org

Connecticut Museum of Mining & Mineral Science, Kent

Before the discovery of iron in Pennsylvania, Connecticut was one of the main producers of the metal in the country. As this museum’s description states: “The Litchfield Hills are dotted with the ghosts of our early iron industry, and the Mining Museum chronicles its ascendancy.” Run by the Connecticut Antique Machinery Association, the museum houses one of the most extensive collections of Connecticut minerals on display in the state. Guests can also view a historic steam engine, and wander over to Kent’s blast furnace, which was once an important part of the iron-producing industry in the region. The museum shares an entrance with the state-run Eric Sloane Museum, which pays striking homage to the legendary landscape painter, and is a hidden gem in its own right. ctamachinery.com

Barker Character, Comic & Cartoon Museum, Cheshire

Where in Connecticut can you find the Lone Ranger, Betty Boop, Bart Simpson, Howdy Doody, Lassie and Superman? You’ll find all of them, and more, at the Barker museum, home to 80,000 pieces of pop culture memorabilia that tell the ultimate toy story of America. All the items were purchased by Herb and Gloria Barker, who began their collection in 1949, picking up collectibles at places like tag sales and thrift shops. With two floors filled with items like Monkees bobbleheads, Planet of the Apes lunchboxes and an 8-foot Incredible Hulk statue, you can find just about any toy you can imagine. But it’s not all fun and games. At its core, the Barker museum is a place of history, where the young and the young at heart can learn about American life in years gone by. In fact, the oldest toy is a cast-iron elephant ramp walker, made in 1873 by the Ives Co. in Bridgeport. 203-272-2357, barkermuseum.com

Bigelow Hollow State Park, Union

This jewel of our park system, way up in the northeast corner and “hidden” away in the 9,000-acre Nipmuck State Forest, has a lot to keep you occupied. This time of year, you might still have some time for cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. But we think it’s during the warmer months that this park truly shines. Miles of hiking trails will keep your activity tracker on overdrive. Boating and fishing are a blast in the Mashapaug Pond, which is actually a 300-acre lake that touches the Massachusetts state line. This is one of the great places to be in the state for fall foliage, as the densely packed trees offer a fiery canvas, while the lake waters provide a beautiful mirrored surface. But also be mindful of the wondrous array of wildlife, including the occasional bobcat, moose and bear. Oh, my!, 860-684-3430, ct.gov/deep

Enders Falls, Granby

Take a ride up Route 219 West in Granby and you’ll find these wondrous series of falls along a quarter-mile stretch of river within Enders State Forest. The pools formed in the waterfalls’ gorges are tempting to swimmers on hot summer days. But be careful, they can also be dangerous. With several waterfall features, such as plunges, horsetails, cascades and slides, and a vertical drop of 30 feet, falls aficionados keep coming back. The website ctwaterfalls.com can’t say enough about these falls: “Enders Falls is the best collection of falls I have found in the state. Four of the six falls are among the best single drop falls in the state!”

Wild Bill’s Nostalgia Center, Middletown

Long before the Netflix sci-fi drama Stranger Things was winning viewers and awards with its 1980s nostalgia, the “strange things” at Wild Bill’s provided a groovy time for countless visitors. On the outside, you’re greeted by a multicolored mural depicting Bob Dylan at the corner of Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Bob Marley and a bare-chested lady hugging a giant mushroom. Wild Bill’s 45 acres of counter-culture paradise includes a working farm, two funhouses and off-the-wall sculptures, such as a creature’s skeleton atop a Volkswagen half-buried in concrete, and the shells of three Yugos. There’s also a 33-foot silo with a 600-pound clown head on top, which may or may not be the world’s largest jack-in-the-box. In front of the “Haunted Funhouse,” which sadly is not open to the public, stands a zombie Michael Jordan, holding a severed head. Strange things, indeed. 860-635-1226, wildbillsonline.com

Cathedral of St. Joseph, Hartford

Many gorgeous houses of worship can be found across the state. But few can rival the combination of clean modernism and color-splashed biblical history of Hartford’s St. Joseph. The structure where the local archbishop leads services, and where Catholics in the Asylum Hill section come to worship, looks far different than it did more than a half-century ago. The original cathedral, with its classical twin Gothic spires, was destroyed by a New Year’s Eve fire in 1956. The church that replaced it — a 281-foot concrete and limestone edifice with straight lines and hard edges — would have been unrecognizable to those familiar with the original. But inside is where the beauty truly lies. Even for the non-religious, being surrounded by vividly colored stained-glass friezes towering more than six stories, the sun coursing through, it’s difficult not to feel the influence of a higher power. Look up at a ceiling full of stars. And look forward to the altar, behind which is one of the largest ceramic tile murals in the world. 860-249-8431, cathedralofsaintjoseph.com

Saville Dam, Barkhamsted

So picturesque is the spired tower of this 135-foot-high, 1,950-foot-long dam that it graced the cover of our magazine last March, part of a feature in which we explored our state’s architectural wonders. Completed in 1940 and located on the eastern branch of the Farmington River, the dam creates the 8-mile-long Barkhamsted Reservoir, which serves as the primary water source for Hartford. This is a place where you come to get away and to enjoy the quiet and the stunning views. You might even spy a soaring bald eagle. (It’s a favorite haunt of many photographers.) There are also some pleasant walking trails in the area. But if you’re planning a long stay, make sure to bring food and drinks; there are no dining options in the immediate vicinity.

Austin House, Hartford

Looks can be deceiving. That lesson becomes very clear when you visit this tricky location on Scarborough Street. Built in the 1930s by A. Everett “Chick” Austin Jr. the director of the Wadsworth Atheneum from 1927 to 1944, the house was designed after the Palladian villas of Italy. But rather than bricks and stucco, this home is made of painted boards. What’s more, it’s only 18 feet deep. That’s why it came to be called “The Facade House.” Believe it or not, it was more than just an oddity; it was a real home for Austin and his wife. Today, the house is “the largest object” in the Wadsworth Atheneum collection. 860-838-4046, thewadsworth.org

Peters Rail Road Museum, Wallingford

It’s quite something to see sheer passion and a life’s work on full display. Even if you’re not “into” trains, it’s worth a trip to this unique attraction, dubbed “the biggest little railroad museum in Connecticut.” OK, so it’s not exactly what you’d expect in a museum; rather than being housed in some stately stone structure, this amazing collection is in the basement of Dave and Barbara Peters’ Wallingford home. It’s open to the public, but please call ahead to make an appointment. (You wouldn’t want strangers showing up on your doorstep unannounced wanting to check out your basement, would you?) On the ground level is a library filled with more than 2,000 railroad books and assorted collectibles. But the basement is where real treasures are — railroad signs, photos and paintings of beautiful vintage trains and memorabilia, beer bottles with railroad emblems and the front door and headlight of a New Haven Railroad car, built in 1955. 203-269-1788, petersrailroadmuseum.webs.com

Hogpen Hill Farms, Woodbury

You don’t have to skip across the pond to see megalithic structures such as England’s Stonehenge. You can go to Stone Mountain in Woodbury. It’s not a mountain in the conventional sense, rather it’s a massive outdoor art installation on the 234-acre property of artist Edward Tufte. The landscape is dotted with scores of sculptures, some in stone, some in stainless steel. You’ll see what resembles part of Stonehenge, an Airstream trailer that looks like it’s about to be launched into space and a 12-foot aluminum fish swimming between trees, and oh yeah, all those megaliths. One of the world’s leading authorities on information design and data visualization, Tufte opens Hogpen Hill Farms one day each year so art and nature lovers can stroll the grounds and take in the eye (and brain) candy. Call or check the website for the announcement of this year’s tour date. 203-272-9187, edwardtufte.com

Old State House, Hartford

The place where Connecticut’s democracy was born has seen more than its fair share of hard times. Nearly demolished at least twice in the 20th century, including in the 1970s when it almost faced the wrecking ball to make way for a parking lot, the National Historic Landmark built in 1796 closed last summer due to budget cuts. But the Old State House, which was Connecticut’s original seat of government from 1796 to 1878, is once again open to the public. Stroll through the chambers of the House of Representatives and the Senate, where the Amistad trial began and the 13th Amendment was ratified, and spy an original portrait of George Washington. Resist the urge to take a spin on Mark Twain’s bicycle. Things get a little wacky when you venture upstairs into the Museum of Natural and Other Curiosities, where the walls are lined with rare masks, animal heads and bizarre items such as a “unicorn’s horn” and a two-headed calf. 860-522-6766, ctoldstatehouse.org

Cushing Center at Yale’s Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library, New Haven

One of the perks of having a world-class research institution so close at hand is that some of the most groundbreaking research ever conducted is right here in Connecticut. Yale’s Cushing Center is named for Harvey Cushing, a pioneering neurosurgeon, who assembled a unprecedented and unparalleled collection of brains to research various pathologies. In the 1990s, the Cushing brain collection was a sort of secret treasure at Yale, a hidden space that had to be discovered by crawling through dark spaces. Since 2010, however, the brains themselves have been on display in the Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library, open to all. Call ahead to check availability. 203-785-5354, library.medicine.yale.edu/cushingcenter

Thomas Griswold House, Guilford

In order to get a taste of what colonial life was like in an immaculately preserved historical house, you can’t do much better than the Thomas Griswold House in Guilford. Maintained by the Guilford Keeping Society — which dates back to the 1940s — and furnished in the style of the early 1800s, a visit to the house feels like stepping into another century. The society bought the house in 1958 from descendants of the Griswolds themselves, and in August, the house hosts a colonial-life summer camp so interested children can get the full, immersive experience. 203-453-2263, guilfordkeepingsociety.com/thomas-griswold-house

Shore Line Trolley Museum, East Haven

Once upon a time, you could get almost anywhere in the state via mass transportation. Before the dawn of the age of the personal automobile, an extensive network of suburban trolley lines covered not just Connecticut, but most of New England. Hidden histories, indeed. Some of the last remaining suburban trolleys are still running at the Shore Line Trolley Museum in East Haven, where visitors can ride a selection of vintage trolleys — through a rural area! — and get a feel for the transportation methods of days gone by. Old trolleys from Connecticut, New Orleans, Montreal and elsewhere are rideable, while a bevy of others are there to look at. 203-467-6927, shorelinetrolley.org

SoNo Switch Tower Museum, Norwalk

Have you ever wondered about the outdated switch houses that occasionally sit beside the still popular train lines such as Metro-North Railroad? Today, trains are mostly controlled by computers, but in an older time, sentinels known as switchmen would manually control which trains ran on which tracks. In the downtown South Norwalk section, a wonderfully restored switch tower allows you to step into one of the rooms where this important work was performed. The tower stands over a Metro-North New Haven line train trellis, which, of course, still runs. 203-246-6958, westctnrhs.org/tower

Cemetery at Connecticut Valley Hospital, Middletown

A truly hidden Connecticut experience, the challenging and even emotionally difficult graveyard at Connecticut Valley Hospital offers a window into the troubled history of how the mentally ill were treated in Connecticut. Located at the edge of the hospital grounds, the cemetery is the final resting place of some nearly 1,700 people, buried there in numbered, unnamed graves from 1878 to 1955. In 1999, local clergy worked with the hospital and the state to get the names of those buried in the plot recovered and inscribed on a monument which now stands on Silvermine Road. The numbered graves are not easy to look at, but the cemetery is a story of lives and dignity — lost and then recovered.

American Clock & Watch Museum, Bristol

We rarely think about what a fundamental and central task it is to be able to tell the time. Imagine living out on a farm where only the house had a clock. It would be a fairly radical, life-changing event to have a wristwatch, allowing you to tell time remotely. It might be a bit like the ability to check email or Facebook from a mobile device. How did it come to be such a ubiquitous act? What were the technologies behind this revolutionary technology? (The study of timekeeping is called horology, for those in the know.) Located in an 1801 Federal-style house, the museum boasts some 5,500 watches and clocks in its collection. 860-583-6070, clockandwatchmuseum.org

Judges Cave, New Haven

New Haveners will recognize the names Whalley, Dixwell and Goffe for three major roadways in the city. What Elm City residents and others in the state might not know is the incredible story behind the three names, a story that connects New Haven to what, at the time, were earth-shaking political developments. In 1649, during the English Civil War, some 59 British judges signed a writ of execution for Charles I (“regicide”), and three of them — Edward Whalley, John Dixwell and William Goffe — fled for the colonies. The three judges hid out on the top of West Rock in what is now called Judges Cave, a rock formation situated along the south end of Regicides Trail, a 7-mile, blue-blazed hiking trail. The cave is still there, with a plaque that tells the story with the quote: “Opposition to tyrants is obedience to God.” ct.gov/deep

Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center, Mystic

In a passage on the website of the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center, Executive Director Maggie Jones puts the center’s central grounding and motivation succinctly: “It is a privilege to live here. We enjoy a high quality of life,” she writes. Indeed, the center’s mission is to get kids out into the woods so that they can learn the joy of natural history. The center has been around since 1946, preserving and teaching about a landscape that has been there for millennia. It puts on a wealth of programs throughout the year for people from every age group, so visitors can learn — or relearn — to fall in love with the woods. 860-536-1216, dpnc.org

Lime Rock Park, Lakeville

Way up in the Litchfield Hills, tucked beneath a ring of gorgeous ridges, the adventurous thrill-seeker can walk in the footsteps — or drive in the skid marks, rather — of Paul Newman at this relatively hidden racetrack. With the slogan “Tradition. Beauty. Speed.” the park gives you a chance to see some high-quality racing right here at home. For those with the need for speed, Lime Rock’s Skip Barber Racing School will teach you to tear up the track like a race car driver. The late Newman took his last trip around the track in 2008, but you can still get a glimpse of the glamour and glitz of the sports cars of yesteryear. Keep an eye on Lime Rock’s website and Facebook page for announcements about racing events in the warmer months. 860-435-5000, limerock.com

The senior writer at Connecticut Magazine, Erik is the co-author of Penguin Random House’s “The Good Vices” and author of “Buzzed” and “Gillette Castle.” He is also an adjunct professor at WCSU’s MFA Program and Quinnipiac University

Albie Yuravich is the editor in chief of Connecticut Magazine. A product of the Naugatuck River Valley, he's also been a newspaper editor and writer at the New Haven Register, Greenwich Time, The Register Citizen and the Republican-American.