We've come along way since the outhouse days. And yet, more often than we'd like, we stumble across a restroom that brings us back to the grim days of yore. Dirty, smelly, grungy public bathrooms that continue to haunt us long after we use them.
But then there's the other side of the coin -- those public restrooms that are really something to admire, the kind that surprise you enough to come back and exclaim to all your friends, "You've got to check out the bathroom!" This piece is about those kinds of lavatories, not the gross ones, thank goodness.
Cintas, a company that among other things supplies restroom facilities, has for 10 years asked the public to rank America's best restrooms. The company's rankings' process is two-fold: First, it accepts nominations on toilets across the country and then it asks the general public to choose the best commode from a list of 10 finalists. This list reflects Cintas' top-five public restrooms in the U.S. and the five runners-up.
To nominate a public bathroom that belongs in next year's top 10, wax lyrical on their merits here.
[See a photo recap of the Best Bathrooms in the USA]
The Field Museum in Chicago houses an eclectic array of science-focused exhibits, from a traveling "Chocolate: Around the World" exhibit to soaring SUE, the Tyrannosaurus rex. But one of its best (and perhaps most surprising) displays can be found behind the bathroom doors: That's right, ladies and gentlemen, The Field Museum wins the prestigious honor of America's Best Restroom. And all you have to do is look up to see why: The ceilings of the bathrooms are adorned with renderings of a starry night's sky. They also act as black holes, ingesting sounds so the bathroom exudes tranquility rather than clamor. The women's bathrooms also come equipped with a nursing mother's room and special "tot areas" for those little ones who are new to the idea of toilets.
You'll think you've suddenly been transported to Tahiti at sunset, but no, it's just a bathroom: the bathroom at the Renaissance Arlington Capital View Hotel, to be specific. And that's not the worst place to be, since it's America's number-two best restroom. Some of the coolest things about this privy are its faucets: They rush with red light when the water is hot, and they pour with blue light when the water is cool. And after you've gone about your business, be sure to look at the shadowy leaves that follow your footsteps as you walk down the hallway: They're made of nothing more than light.
Yes, the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts hosts some pretty amazing shows: The 2011-2012 season will showcase everything from the Marrukegu Buru, a hip hop-stilt dancing-storytelling group, to Broadway headliner Patti LuPone. But during intermission, you might want to take a look at the loo. The bathroom is a work of art in and of itself, with Terrazzo floors, glass-tiled walls and stainless steel stall doors. Plus, the lights constantly change colors from blues and greens to golds, pinks and reds. The effect is meant to mimic the breathtaking Sonoran skies that blanket Scottsdale.
Oh, Porta Potties. You can't live with 'em, and you can't live without 'em. And back on President Barack Obama's Inauguration Day, there were tons of them flanking Washington, D.C.'s National Mall. There was even one for the new president himself, but this Don's Johns was not just any transportable commode. This one has smooth granite counters, hardwood floors and walls that resemble black marble. There's even climate-controlled air conditioning and heating (and on that January day back in 2009, we're betting the heat was on high). The luxury-trailer experience was topped off by some soothing music for the presidential guests.
Public bathrooms are usually not the most comfortable places. After all, their very purpose is to provide humans a community space to do something that's, well, rather private. But the commodes at the Snowbasin Resort in Huntsville, Utah are the very definition of luxury and ease. Gorgeous chandeliers, crafted from bronze and crystal, drip from the ceilings; Italian Carrera marble covers the countertops; and the African Anigre wooden walls are hand-painted.
When you think of luxurious pairings, you might imagine a glass of Cristal champagne with caviar or 400-threadcount sheets on a pillowtop mattress; you might not think of a swanky pool and a bathroom. But, let us tell you, this pool-restroom combo is to die for. First of all, it's on the 10th floor and rooftop of The Joule, a downtown Dallas hotel. Second, there are outdoor showers, backed by beautiful mosaics of human forms enjoying the spray. Third, the restrooms themselves feature wood paneling, contemporary art, interesting lighting and even cloth hand towels.
Habana Outpost, in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, describes itself as "New York's first eco-eatery and community gathering place for families, artists and toddlers." A pretty eclectic mission statement, but this Cuban restaurant gets good reviews for its margaritas and also its bathrooms. In keeping with the restaurant's green theme, the restaurant collects rainwater, keeps it in holding tanks, filters it and uses it in the bathrooms to flush the toilets. This reportedly helps the owners conserve thousands of gallons of water each week.
Back in Medieval times, even kings had to rough it when going about their business. They used a privy or garderobe, which were basically rooms that contained a bench with a hole carved out. That hole would either shoot down to a cesspit or a moat. Blech -- think of the stench on a hot summer afternoon or the chill on a cold winter's night! But do not fear: The restroom experience at Napa Valley's Castello di Amorosa Winery is quite different. This modern-day castle features bathrooms with Italian-style frescoes coloring the walls, Tuscan travertine marble gracing the countertops and ornate dragons and gargoyles guarding the sink spigots.
You'll have to be a man to appreciate the merits of the restroom inside the Main Street Station Casino. In the men's bathroom, a grafittied portion of the Berlin Wall holds up the urinals. That's right, folks. This artifact, which symbolizes a somber piece of Germany's history, is memorialized in an off-the-Strip Vegas casino. That's really all there is to say.
This New York City restaurant has a 15th-century ninja theme. Inside, you'll be transported from the TriBeCa neighborhood to feudal Japan, and the servers continue the theme in their ninja uniforms. But what will really get you excited are Ninja New York's rooms for Him and Her. These bathrooms have a control pad that allows users to control the temperature on the toilet seat, and to employ the water sprayer, as well as a deodorizer and the blow dryer. All we can say is "Hi Ya."
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