public restrooms

Game of thrones: Where is the best public restroom?

10 quirky public loos seek Best US Restroom title

If you travel for business or pleasure, you know the value of a clean public restroom.

Smart business owners know that too. And in this age of selfies and social media, some venues are gaining extra attention by giving guests unusual and creative spaces to do their business.

Now ten of those lovely loos are running for the title of America’s Best Restroom.

Here’s a rundown I put together for CNBC.

Finalists were chosen based on cleanliness, visual appeal, innovation, functionality and unique design elements and this year the list ranges from loos in a museum and a zoo to lavs in restaurants, cafes and airports.

Through September 13, the public is invited to cast votes for the coolest commode from amongst the ten finalists. The winning loo will take a throne in America’s Best Restroom Hall of Fame and receive $2,500 in facility services from contest sponsor Cintas Corporation.

Take a seat and help choose a winner.

This loo is a zoo

There are animals – behind glass – in two restrooms at the Nashville Zoo in Nashville, Tennessee.

A lush exhibit that’s home to six cotton-top tamarins is visible through a floor-to-ceiling glass window in a women’s restroom, while a ball python snake exhibit can be viewed from a men’s restroom.

“It’s one of the may features that sets us apart from your standard zoo visit,” said Jim Bartoo, Nashville Zoo Marketing and Public Relations Director, “It creates conversation after the guest leaves. They share it with their friends and family. The put it on Facebook and Instagram. This organic, word-of-mouth advertising is extremely valuable to us.”

Gold faucets and candelabras

The lobby restrooms at the Jupiter NEXT hotel in Portland, Oregon have seven stalls with floor-to-ceiling, gray stone-paneled walls arranged in a semicircle around a trough-style shared sink. Special features include gold faucets and candelabra light fixtures.

“We pride ourselves on creating community wherever possible,” said Katie Watkins, Community Manager for the Jupiter, “Our low-lit separated sink area offers a space to connect and say hello to other guests – both local folks and hotel patrons – before heading out to make the most of your stay in Portland.”

Flush with French flair

In Charlotte, North Carolina, La Belle Helene is a brasserie-style restaurant designed by noted Parisian architect Richard Lafond.

“We invested in every part of the restaurant, from the pewter-poured bar and the gorgeous chandeliers and leather banquettes to the bathroom,” said Scott SteenrodManaging Director at Constellation Culinary Group.

The vanity in the unisex restroom offers a shared space for guests and the hand-painted mural reflected in the mirror offers a great backdrop for selfies.

Modern Moroccan

The restrooms at Mourad, a Moroccan fine dining restaurant in San Francisco, California, blend old and new; tradition and innovation. Each fully enclosed stall is decorated in a different color of floor-to-ceiling Moroccan mosaic tile, features a handy marble shelf and mirror and opens to a communal marble-countertop sink.

Go stylish at the mall

At the Natick Mall in Natick, Massachusetts, the women’s restrooms include a waiting room with a chandelier, makeup stations and two private changing/nursing rooms with a lounge chair and outlets. Each stall also includes a marble shelf to hold your bag.

Italian adventures

Each of the four single-user washrooms at Jianna Restaurant in Greenville, South Carolina uses color, texture, tiles, lighting and accessories to reflect a different aspect of Italian culture.

“Our client challenged us to design the restrooms so that they added something special to the great food and the drinks and the overall atmosphere in the restaurant,” said project manager Missy Games, from McMillan Pazdan Smith Architecture. “The restaurant has been open a few years and you still have people coming back to the table saying, ‘Oh wow, did you see the blue bathroom?’ It’s not your typical dinner conversation.”

Bathrooms for a community-oriented brewpub

Processed with VSCO with kp8 preset

The Butcher and the Brewer brewpub in Cleveland, Ohio has an in-house butcher and charcutier and a sense of community that extends to the bathrooms. There, a communal entryway leads to green subway-tiled accents walls and a communal sink. Private stalls for men are on the right; stalls for women are on the left.

Yes, cool loos at New York’s LaGuardia Airport

LaGuardia Airport Terminal B, Location: Queens, New York, LaGuardia Gateway Partners

If the restrooms at LaGuardia Airport’s Terminal B are among the finalists for America’s Best Restroom, there may indeed be hope for the overall success of the airport’s current rebuild. 

With an eye to efficiency, aesthetics and innovation, these new restrooms have stalls large enough to accommodate luggage, trough-style sinks with a raised counter above; live orchids, custom mosaic tiles at the entryway and over the urinals and graphics depicting New York City on the stall doors.

Making good use of Seattle rain 

Swanky new restrooms are part of a massive renovation project for the North Satellite at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

These feature a flushing system that will harvest rainwater to the tune of more than 750,000 gallons a year. The modern loos also have separate sinks inside the ADA stalls, family restrooms with adult changing tables and built-in custodial support closets.         

“We realize no good work is done until the paperwork is done,” said Sea-Tac spokesman Perry Cooper, “And we appreciate that people think we have some of the best seats in the house. We like to think, that’s how we roll.”

Museum quality restrooms

The minimalist design of New York City’s New Museum of Contemporary Art is the work of Pritzker Prize-winning architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa of the architecture firm SANAA. When it came time to create the restrooms, the Tokyo-based architects settled on a super-graphic wall pattern featuring pixilated cherry blossoms against bright fields of turquoise or orange.

Posh public potties in airports, hotels & parks

Tampa Airport

Twenty recently renovated restrooms in the airport’s main terminal now have automated, hands-free fixtures and glass murals depicting scenery, animals and plant life native to the Sunshine State. “We’re overflowing with pride to be nominated for our restrooms,” said an airport spokesperson.

Travelers on the go know it’s sometimes difficult to find a welcoming and clean place to, uh, go.

So it’s encouraging to see the 10 posh potties, cool commodes and imaginative public washrooms that restroom supply company Cintas has flushed out as nominees in the 12th annual contest for America’s Best Restroom.

The family-friendly restrooms at Chicago’s Field Museum won top prize in 2011 and last year the 83-stall restroom at a Buc-ee’s convenience store in New Braunfels, Texas, just outside of San Antonio, was named king of the thrones.

“Guests look at the public restrooms as a clue to how the entire operation is run,” said Katie Davin, associate professor and director of hospitality education at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I.

“If the bathroom is clean, that’s a good indication that the kitchen is probably clean. If the restroom is out of paper towels, maybe management isn’t really on top of things. And if a restroom has TVs in the mirrors and cool music playing, that’s a good sign the business is probably modern and hip,” she said.

Among the nominated restrooms this year are those at the Waldorf Astoria New York. The very definition of swank since the 1930s, the landmark Park Avenue hotel oozes elegance at every turn. That includes the lobby-level ladies lounge, which has an Art Deco staircase, faux fireplace with oversized marble vanity, attendants and private stalls with toilets, vanities, sinks and Salvatore Ferragamo bath amenities.

“We often see harried female midtown investment bankers in early evening entering our lobby ladies room. They emerge transformed from dark business suit to gown and fabulous shoes,” said Matt Zolbe, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing. “We play a small but really helpful role. Sometimes the event is not even here; still we are part of her plan. The men? I suspect they change in their offices.”

Guests have surprising recall about whether or not a hotel restroom is unkempt and in need of renovation or whether or not it’s “wow,” said Bjorn Hanson, divisional dean of the New York University Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management. “And many non-guests expect hotel restrooms to be especially clean and safe and will stop at hotels, en route, whether they’re walking or driving, to use the restrooms.”

So, like that bit of toilet paper that sometimes gets stuck to the bottom of your shoe, the condition of a restroom can linger and, said Hanson, “enhance or harm a hotel’s image beyond the experience of hotel guests.”

Voting for America’s Best Restroom continues through Oct. 31. This year’s winner will be announced later this fall.

For a slide show of the nominated restrooms, see the original version of my story 10 Posh Public Potties on CNBC.

Vote for America’s Best Restroom

Do you worry about where to ‘go’ when you’re on the go? Then take note of the beautiful and sometimes bizarre public bathrooms that get nominated for America’s Best Restroom.

Whether sightseeing or heading down the road to visit a new town, finding a clean place to “go” when you’re on the go can be a traveler’s most urgent challenge.

That’s why word gets around when a hotel, restaurant, museum, ballpark or other venue goes out of its way to provide bathrooms that are not just sanitary, but distinctive, inviting and somewhat eccentric.

There’s even an annual award for America’s Best Restroom. For this year’s choice, people can cast their vote online through Sept. 19.

The contest is hosted by bathroom supply company Cintas Corp., which gathers restroom recommendations through the year and then invites the public to help flush out the best loo in the land from a list of 10 finalists.

The 2010 winner was The Fountain on Locust, a vintage ice-cream parlor in St. Louis, Mo., where the bathrooms have hand-painted murals, luxury fixtures and designer mirrors.

This year’s nominees include the dragon- and gargoyle-themed restrooms at the Castello Di Amorosa Winery in Calistoga, Calif., and the loos at the Renaissance Arlington Capital View Hotel in Arlington, Va., where bird silhouettes on the mirrors light up when the faucets are turned on.

Restrooms on the ground floor of Chicago’s Field Museum have also been nominated. “They’re large and family friendly, with changing stations and sinks set low enough for kids to easily wash their hands,” said museum spokeswoman Nancy O’Shea. “Our housekeeping staff does a great job of keeping those restrooms clean, and we are just delighted to be in the running.”

Other nominees this year include the restrooms at the Main Street Casino in Las Vegas, where urinals hang on a graffiti-covered slab of the Berlin Wall, and Ninja New York, a restaurant where the décor is 15th-century Japan (complete with ninja-dressed wait staff), but the up-to-date restrooms sport built-in seat warmers, water sprayers, deodorizers and driers for the derriere.

There’s even a posh portable potty on the list. Created for President Obama’s 2009 inauguration-day festivities, Don’s Johns DJ5000LX Presidential Luxury Restroom Trailer has granite counters and shelves, heat and air conditioning, an audio system and, for those waiting their turn, a 37-inch exterior-mounted flat screen TV. It’s available for rent by any organization interested in an outstanding outhouse.

(This story first appeared on’s Overhead Bin)