Doing your business in a public restroom isn’t ideal for most of us, unless, of course it’s in one of the 10 finalists for Cintas’ 13th annual America’s Best Restroom Contest. http://www.bestrestroom.com/us/default.asp These shrines to the porcelain gods are going head to head for bragging rights and the title of the 2014 #1 place to take your #2:
(Descriptions of each bathroom via Cintas Best Bathroom Contest)
American Girl Place: Chicago, IL
Bright, whimsical colors. Mirrors and sinks designed for children’s height. Even signature doll holders in each bathroom stall. A trip to the restroom at American Girl Place in Chicago is as memorable as a walk through the store! “Moms and girls alike are delighted with our restrooms,” says Stephanie Spanos, public relations manager for American Girl. “Girls are thrilled that their special doll companions are safely secure and off the floor while they use the facilities.”
Bowl Plaza: Lucas, Kansas
To fully appreciate Bowl Plaza in Lucas, you need to start from about 50 yards away. That’s because the entire structure is shaped like a toilet! Opened in 2012, the restroom facility – built to provide handicapped-accessible restrooms – is mosaic art at its best. The folks in Lucas take their mosaic art seriously; it’s a tradition that dates back to the 1940s. Outside and inside Bowl Plaza, you’ll see colored bottles, broken pottery, dishes, tiles, toys and mirrors on the walls. Plus, you won’t want to miss a spectacular 14-foot mosaic oval lid and a toilet bowl “drain” depicting swirling water with items people have accidentally dropped into the toilet bowl. So far, over 10,000 people have visited Bowl Plaza from all 50 states and 50 countries.
El Centro DF: Washington, DC
When customers enter the restrooms at El Centro, they’re greeted by two surprises. One, the sinks are metal basins and look like a throwback to the Prohibition Era. And when people approach the sinks to wash their hands, they may very well see the opposite sex right across the way! The unisex washing station, created by Brie Husted Architecture, turns the sink area into a social hub. “Most people are surprised when they spot the other sex washing their hands where a mirror should be!” says Leo Schmid, marketing and PR manager for Richard Sandoval Restaurants, which owns El Centro.
The Fabulous Fox Theatre: St. Louis, MO
Stately and elegant define the restrooms inside The Fabulous Fox Theatre in St. Louis. Not only are the restrooms ornate but the lounges outside of them dazzle patrons too. The lounges feature decorative carpets and pastel pink walls while the restrooms have black-and-white checkered floors and sleek black countertops. The Fabulous Fox Theatre is the work of renowned architect C. Howard Crane and first opened in 1929 as a movie palace. Today, it’s one of the most exquisite venues in the country to enjoy live touring Broadway shows, concerts and comedians.
Longwood Gardens: Philadelphia, PA
The public restrooms at Longwood Gardens Longwood Gardens, the most visited public garden in America, deserve a double-take as you walk by. That’s because the 17 restrooms themselves are part of the largest indoor “Green Wall” in North America! Aside from the restrooms’ lush greenery, they also feature domed, naturally lit lavatory cabinets hidden within the “Green Wall.” In addition, each restroom contains etched translucent glass at the top of the dome to provide natural light, reduce electricity and minimize the need for light fixtures.
Mai-Kai Restaurant: Ft. Lauderdale, FL
You might want to wear sunglasses before you step into the Mai-Kai Restaurant restrooms. That’s because everywhere you look there’s bright, shiny gold! From the floor to the ceiling, columns to the mirrors, the restroom has a golden aura that whisks you away with the feel of a royal washroom. Opened in 1956, the Mai Kai itself is a tiki-themed restaurant in Fort Lauderdale and one of the few “Grand Polynesian Palaces of Tiki” still in operation today.
Plums Cafe: Costa Mesa, CA
Modern style and cutting-edge design abound inside the Plums Café restroom in Costa Mesa. Owner Kim Jorgenson, a native of Oregon, worked with Steve Brabson of Franklin Studios Architecture to create a space inspired by life along the Pacific coast. The grey terrazzo floors represent wet sand and the curved marble mosaic walls are a nod to the rumbling waves. Many of the cafe's signature dishes also feature ingredients indigenous to the Pacific Northwest. “All the time people say ‘Wow! Who did your bathrooms?’ and also ‘Where can we buy the hooks?’” says Jorgenson. The “hooks” refer to the metal sculptures in the form of people that double as a place for a coat or purse.
The Grove Retail Area: Los Angeles, CA
For years, people have considered The Grove one of the nation’s top retail, dining and entertainment destinations. Now, add “best restroom” to the list as well! The Grove is a Southern California landmark. Vanity Fair named The Grove the “Main Street of Dreams” and Trip Advisor called it the “#1 Shopping Destination in Los Angeles.” In 2012, The Grove tapped world-renowned architect David Rockwell of The Rockwell Group to design and remodel the shopping center’s restrooms. The men and women’s restrooms and family room now provide guests with first-class amenities like child-friendly toilets and washbasin, microwave, bottle warmers, baby changing station, two nursing rooms with rocking chair, children’s playroom with a chalkboard and a plasma screen TV. Additionally, The Grove restrooms house six original drawings by famous artists Picasso and Miro.
Tiki Lounge: Pittsburgh, PA
Scott Kramer is especially proud of the ladies room at the Tiki Lounge in Pittsburgh. That’s because he and a team of local artists spent over 200 hours designing and constructing it! Kramer, who co-owns the restaurant with Steve Zumoff, traveled to Bali (Indonesia) to hand-pick the supplies. Today, visitors can see the proof of his hard work: myriad stones and shells glued all over the walls and countertops. Plus, you won’t want to miss the waterfall. That’s right, Kramer constructed an actual waterfall that feeds the shell basins down below when activated by sensors. In the waterfall, all the florals are silk, and the water flows from the top left all the way into the basin. What a way to wash your hands!
Trail Restroom: Austin, Texas
In the heart of Austin, Texas sits a restroom in perfect harmony with nature. The Trail Restroom is one part bathroom and one part functional outdoor art. Designed by local firm Miró Rivera Architects, the Trail Restroom is a popular stop for outdoor enthusiasts who frequent the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake Lady Bird Lake. More than 1.5 million people visit the 10-mile Butler Trail every year, which was envisioned by notable names like Lady Bird Johnson, wife of President Lyndon B. Johnson. The public Trail Restroom uses sustainable materials and is low maintenance, maximizing airflow and blending with the surrounding natural areas. It also allows the sun to peek through via open spaces in the ceiling. The restroom was designed as part of a public-private partnership with the City of Austin and The Trail Foundation, which works to protect and enhance the popular hike-and-bike trail.
Visit the contest’s voting page to cast your ballot for your favorite! Voting ends October 31st.
And curious who won in 2013? It was the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis, MN:
“The Varsity Theater, formerly The University Theater, was one of the last vaudeville houses in Minneapolis and hosted everything from minstrel shows, to comedians, to screenings of early silent films. In 2005, the current incarnation of The Varsity Theater opened its doors as a vaudeville house for the 21st Century. The restroom, decorated with ornate, gilded mirrors, sassy text plates, and bricks laid as if by a drunken mason on bender, invites guests into an Alice In Wonderland-like grotto – to relieve themselves and re-live childhood fairy tales. One part old-fashioned powder room one part lounge, this restroom allows concert-goers to take a break in an area from which one can still view and hear the stage. Bartenders even serve drinks over the back counter into the restroom area, offering a VIP experience to every guest. The sinks were designed with shower head-faucets with a foot pedal operation, a la grade school restrooms. The lounge and hand washing area is coed, creating quite a social atmosphere, particularly when concert-goers are trying to figure out how to activate the sinks and they need to ask one another for the tip – use your toes. And of course, the women’s side of the restroom features four times as many stalls as the men's side. In addition to hosting both local and national music acts the Varsity is a popular location for wedding receptions, private galas, and dream dates, coupled with dinner at their associated restaurant, Loring Pasta Bar.”