New Mexico’s original spa town
The New Mexico town of Jemez Springs “has long been a place of uncommon natural beauty,” said Bonnie Tsui in The New York Times. The Jemez people migrated to this valley north of Albuquerque in the 13th century. Franciscan missionaries arrived four centuries later, and the Guisewa Pueblo church they established is “now the remarkably preserved Jemez State Monument.” The town became famous for its mineral hot springs, and in the 1870s a bathhouse was built, which was recently restored. These days a nearby Zen meditation center offers “austere yogic calm.” Jemez Springs is also popular with artists, “refugees from big-city living,” hikers, bikers, and anglers. State Highway 4, on which the town is situated, is part of the Jemez Mountain Trail, a 163-mile-long National Scenic Byway that winds through both high desert and mountains. Another ­“dramatic slice of New Mexico,” located about 20 miles northeast, is the recently established Valles Caldera National Preserve, “a former ranch in a collapsed crater.”                                                                                                                             

Washington’s newest landmark
The new Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, D.C., is “the largest single addition to the Capitol in its 215-year history,” said Michael E. Ruane in The Washington Post. It also marks the biggest change since the completion of the dome in the 1860s. The $621 million facility measures 580,000 square feet, extending three levels below ground, and is “surrounded by things of wonder: giant twin skylights,” precious historical artifacts, and wood-paneled theaters. Admission is free. The centerpiece of the center’s Emancipation Hall is the 1856 statue of Freedom, a model for the one atop the Capitol Dome. Twenty-three other statues are scattered throughout the complex. New exhibits of seldom-seen objects include the black-shrouded pine platform that “once bore the body of Abraham Lincoln”; John Quincy Adams’ metal-tipped ivory walking stick; a tiny ceremonial trowel once used by George Washington to lay the Capitol cornerstone; and a letter from Washington to Congress “reporting the British defeat at Yorktown.”