Colorado Flag

The sun shines through a Colorado Flag as fans continue to fill along Highway 50. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

There’s no place like the Centennial State. And to celebrate Colorado’s 143rd birthday Thursday (Colorado gained statehood Aug. 1, 1876), consider embarking on one of these adventures you can’t take anywhere else:

North Sterling State Park

North Sterling State Park Fun fact: Pioneers passed through the land that is now the park via the Overland Trail, which is believed to have been one of America's busier roads in the late 19th century. Address: 24005 County Road 330, Sterling, 80751 Check out Seth Boster's profile of this park here.

1. Get outside in one of Colorado’s 41 state parks. Colorado Parks and Wildlife is waiving its entrance fee to all of its parks Monday. Permits are still required for fishing and camping, but entry is free.

Lace up your hiking boots, slather on some sunscreen and enjoy the splendor of the Centennial State. Because it will be hard to choose just one, check out some of our favorites here.

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Park Theatre in Estes Park. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

2. Watch a movie in Colorado’s oldest movie theater. The Park Theatre in Estes Park, built in 1913, is one of the oldest cinemas in the West. The historic theater shows a range of films, including new releases and classics.

The highest suspension bridge in the world is over the Royal Gorge

17. The highest suspension bridge in the world is over the Royal Gorge - The Royal Gorge Bridge spans the Arkansas River at a height of 1,053 feet.

3. Conquer your fear of heights atop the world’s second highest bridge. Walking across the Royal Gorge and Bridge in Cañon City is a Colorado pilgrimage.

The span, 995 feet above the Arkansas River, was built in 1929. If you’re feeling extra daring, try the zip line, too.

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Boaters cruise around the lake and tube at Lake Pueblo State Park on Wednesday, July 3.

4. Relax along the shoreline at Rock Canyon Beach. Getting your beach fix isn’t easy in Colorado, but Lake Pueblo State Park boasts 60 miles of shoreline and beautiful views.

Mile High Bug Club Pikes Peak Birding and Nature Festival (copy)

Insects found in Colorado and beyond are preserved at the May Natural History Museum. (Photo courtesy of Pikes Peak Birding and Nature Festival)

5. Surround yourself with creepy crawlies in one of the largest private insect collections in the world. The May Natural Museum of History is home to more than 8,000 preserved bugs from around the globe.

Great Sand Dunes (copy)

Visitors hike along the ridge of a sand dune as the sun begins to set in August 2015 at the Great Sand Dunes National Park near Alamosa.

6. Hike the tallest dune in North America. At 750 feet above the San Luis Valley, the Star Dune in the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is our continent’s highest sand dune. The National Park Service recommends you plan for a five-hour round trip to hike the massive dune.

Start in early morning or in evening to avoid heat exhaustion, lightning and burned feet.

7. Eat a Rocky Ford melon in the world’s melon capital. After much waiting, lovers of the famed fruit can indulge in the sweet, world-famous cantaloupe in Rocky Ford. The ripe melons, including watermelons, honeydew and cantaloupe, are transported from the Arkansas Valley to grocery stores and farmers markets. Or grab one yourself at Knapp’s Farm Market in Rocky Ford.

Sand Creek Massacre Museum

In this Aug. 23, 2013 photo, a security guard passes as a woman views the darkened and closed off exhibit on the San Creek Massacre, inside the History Colorado Center, the state's new history museum, in Denver. The museum fenced off its display dealing with one of the state’s darkest chapters, after descendants of the slaughter’s survivors demanded changes in how it is portrayed. On Nov. 29, 1864, a U.S. Army force led by Col. John M. Chivington swept into a sleeping Indian village along a southeastern Colorado creek, killing more than 160 Cheyenne and Arapaho, most of them women, children and the elderly. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

8. Learn about the faces and places that make up Colorado’s past. To celebrate the state’s birthday, the History Colorado Center in Denver and its seven community museums around the state will offer free admission Thursday. See the full visit of museums here. The History Colorado Center is hosting a block party with live music, trivia games and kids’ games.

Learn about the inspiring women of Colorado’s past through a free guided tour at the Center for Colorado Women’s History at Byers-Evans House.

Contact Olivia Prentzel: 726-1934.

Twitter: @oliviaprentzel

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