airport bathrooms

Airport restrooms in the running for top toilet prize

As travelers, we are all too familiar with the search for a clean public restroom. We also know the delight of entering a public bathroom that is not just clean but blessed with quirk and charm.

Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic in full swing, clean and super-sanitized public restrooms are even more important.

So, we are delighted to see restrooms at both Dallas Fort Worth International Airport and the Jamacia Station on JFK International Airport’s AirTrain people mover line are finalists in the 2020 America’s Best Restroom contest. 

Anyone can vote for the winning throne through October 19. The top toilets get a seat in America’s Best Restroom Hall of Fame and restroom cleaning services worth more than $2500 from contest sponsor Cintas.

Here are the finalists:

Dallas Fort Worth International Airport

All gate-side restrooms at DFW Airport are now super ‘smart’.

The bathrooms have touch-free technology and the Tooshlights feature we’ve been raving about that uses red and green lights to indicate which stalls are open.

Digital signage outside each restroom lets passengers know how many stalls are open.

JFK’s AirTrain Jamaica Station – New York, NY

The new restrooms for the Jamaica Station stop on the AirTrain people mover at John F. Kennedy International Airport are nearly three times as large as the previous restrooms. As a nice bonus, the stalls are wide enough to accommodate luggage.

Bancroft Park – Colorado Springs, Colorado

The Bancroft Park restrooms have green, red and yellow lights to show availability. Soap, water, toilet paper, and a dryer are all touchless. Better yet, the restrooms self-clean after every 30 uses and an app lets the maintenance crew know when toilet paper or other supplies are running low.

Gaslight Bar & Grill – Cincinnati, OH

The Gaslight Bar & Grill in Cincinnati, OH is in a building that once served as a branch library. The restrooms have marble tile walls and gold wallpaper as well as touchless faucets and trash cans.

Greeley Square Park – New York, New York

The kiosk-like restroom at Greeley Square Park in NY is decorated with historic photographs and has classical music, rotating seat covers, a full-time attendant, Italian tile, fresh flowers, and an HVAC system for seasonal climate control.

Kimpton Muse Hotel – New York, New York

The Kimpton Muse Hotel restrooms invite guests and diners at the adjacent Muse Bar to pick a stall according to their personality or mood. There are six “sin-inspired” unisex stalls, each with a different theme and design: Glam, Vain, Rebel, Passion, Macho, and Envy.

Portland Japanese Garden – Portland, Oregon

All materials in the restroom at the Portland Japanese Garden – from the texture of the tiles to the design of the fixtures – are chosen for their standalone beauty, as well as functional works of art.

Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts – Scottsdale, Arizona

Standing ovation? These sleek and modern lavs have terrazzo flooring, glass-tiled walls, and plenty of spacious, stainless-steel stalls.

The lighting system can also be programmed for holidays, special events and specific audiences.

Swift’s Attic – Austin, Texas

Swift’s Attic restaurant in Austin has Gothic-style restrooms with floral-patterned sinks, antique light fixtures, and gold and black striped wallpaper.

The Guild Hotel – San Diego, CA

The Guild Hotel opened in 2019 in a century-old building built as a YMCA. Today the restrooms off the lobby have beautiful marble sinks with striking lighting, tiling and mirrors.

Rate the bathroom at Singapore’s Changi Airport

Some of the world’s best airport restrooms are at Singapore’s Changi Airport.

This restroom not only has these lovely pedestal sinks, it has a separate ‘powder room’ area where women can freshen up and apply the cosmetics they’ve purchased in the store just outside.

There’s even a digital feedback screen, asking travelers to rate the restroom.

In the few moments I hung around taking pictures, a half dozen women stepped up to the screen, smiled, pressed excellent and were on their way.

And, yes, the woman in the picture was there on duty keeping the restroom neat and tidy.

Have you seen an award-winning airport bathroom?

Been in any great airport bathrooms lately?

If so, then take a moment nominate it for the 2010 America’s Best Restroom Award.

This is the ninth year the Cintas Corporation has been running this wacky contest and there have been some pretty swanky loos among the contestants.  But back in 2005, the grand prize winner was none other than the Fort Smith Regional Airport (FSM) in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

Here’s a description of their winning restrooms:

Fort Smith Regional Airport prides itself on the Southern hospitality that it displays for its visitors. The restrooms are always clean, with sanitation being of utmost importance. Beautiful décor and comfortable seating, both inside and outside the stalls, compliment the restrooms’ cleanliness. Dried flower arrangements are always on display. And you’ll never have to manually flush a toilet or turn on a sink here—everything is automated.

Sounds like a lovely spot for a traveler to take a tinkle, doesn’t it?

Nominations for the best restroom – airport or not, in the United States and in Canada – are being accepted through through April 26, 2010. 10 finalists will be announced in July and the public will get to vote for the favorites, with the winner announced in  September.

Besides the Fort Smith Airport, other winners have included the University of Notre Dame; The Grand Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi; Kohler Art Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin; Jungle Jim’s International Market in Fairfield, Ohio; Hermitage Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee; and in 2009, Shoji Tabuchi Theatre in Branson, Missouri.

You can see the winners and the runners up in the America’s Best Restroom Hall of Fame.

Bizarre airport finds – and 72 smart ones

If you stop and look around you should be able to find an exhibit case at many airports filled with some of the items the US Fish & Wildlife Service has confiscated from travelers.

(Confiscated wildlife products, JFK. Courtesy US Fish & Wildlife Service)

Sadly, smuggling endangered species – and items made from the parts of endangered species – is big business.  Wildlife inspectors around the country are kept on their toes inspecting cargo shipments and suitcases for everything from bags of writhing snakes to dried sea horses and mounted sea turtles.  And, according to this AP article, Bizarre Finds Normal for Airport Inspectors, last year the inspectors at the airport in Anchorage, Alaska made more seizures than JFK airport in New York.

There’s the case of the women who tried to hide a bear gall in her bra cup; the sad tale of the live monkey shipped with snakes, and the chronic sea horse importer. Every time Chris Andrews opens a package or inspects a passenger in his job as a U.S. Fish and Wildlife inspection officer at Anchorage’s Ted Stevens International Airport, he chances an even more bizarre find…… He says that some of the saddest cases he’s seen involve live animals shipped as cargo, including a monkey in a cage shipped with taped-up snakes. The snakes got loose and killed the monkey.”

Sad, yes; but really sort of fascinating.  The article goes on to mention snake wine, elephant toenails, and jars of bear fat.  I’m not even sure I want to know what these items might be used for, but it’s intriguing to read about how crafty some of these smugglers get with their contraband.

And, speaking of crafty. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) now has those nifty Step ’n Wash units in 72 public restrooms at the airport.

These Step ‘n Wash units are self-retracting steps that are secured beneath restroom sink counters to make it easier for kids to reach the faucets and wash their hands.

Great idea!