There's an award for everything – even the title of America's Best Restroom.
This year, ten public loos around the U.S. will compete for the title, featuring special features like disco balls, fresh flowers, classical music and elaborately decorated walls.
The annual competition draws attention to public restrooms that are super clean, visually appealing, innovative and uniquely designed. It also suggests that spending time, attention and money on restrooms can be its own reward.
"No matter the industry, public restrooms have a significant impact on customers' overall perception of your business and their inclination to return," said Sean Mulcahey, marketing manager at Cincinnati-based Cintas, the cleaning supply and services company that hosts the annual contest.
"The contest highlights the role clean restrooms play in elevating a good business into a great one," he added.
Through September 18, the public is invited to vote on which of this year's ten finalists will take the throne as 2018's top restroom. The prize: $2,500 in restroom cleaning services, along with bathroom bragging rights.
Restored and revitalized to the tune of $8.9 million, New York City's once dilapidated Bryant Park is now a gathering spot with cafes, restaurant and a full schedule of events year-round. The nine-acre location's improvements extend to the restrooms, which sport full-time attendants, fresh flowers, and classical music. There are also Toto fixtures, automatic seat covers, Italian marble, glass mosaic details and coffered ceilings.
"Visitors' reactions to the bathrooms can be best described as awe and serendipity, mainly because they encounter an experience not typically found in public facilities," said Dan Biederman, Executive Director, Bryant Park Corporation.
The 6,400-acre J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge is home to 245 species of birds and is teeming with mammals, reptiles, fish, amphibians and other wildlife.
The outdoor adventure extends inside to refuge restrooms that immerse visitors in an underwater scene, including life-size animal sculptures on the walls and photographic tile murals of mangrove scenes. No surface goes to waste: Bathroom stalls showcase professional bird photography. Refuge officials say the lush imager and the entertaining animal sculptures help turn a nature call into a "nature enthrall."
In Wisconsin, the children's garden area at the Green Bay Botanical Garden is home to a fun restroom facility nicknamed the "Hobbit House." Built into the hillside to minimize heating and cooling needs, the loo incorporates local boulders and offers visitors a great view of the garden.
"The Stumpf Hobbit House Restroom is a really fun place to 'go', but it is also environmentally sustainable," said garden spokeswoman Aubrey Brennan, "It's equipped with energy efficient features" like water efficient plumbing, energy-saving hand dryers and a green roof, Brennan said.
The massive restrooms at Morgan Manufacturing, in the West Loop of Chicago, match the industrial elegance of the 32,000 square-foot event space. Sleek, oversized lavatories have glistening chandeliers made from repurposed pipes and crystals as well as leather ottomans, walls covered in mirrored subway tiles—and white marble stalls.
The hot pinks, cool blues and other colors from the vibrant Mexican color palette featured in the décor at Mi Vida restaurant in Washington, D.C. make their way into the restrooms. The fiesta-worthy lavs have hand-stenciled floors in the Mexican folk-art tradition and aqua-grey penny tile ceilings, a paperless sink system with a cool cascading stream of blue light.
"In general, our restroom designs are extensions of the spaces they adjoin," explains Michael Reginbogin, co-founder and design director of KNEAD Hospitality + Design, Mi Vida's restaurant and design firm. "We spare no expense when it comes to the finishes and plumbing fixtures - similar to how we build all of our restaurants."
The restroom at the Highlight Room on the top floor of the Dream Hollywood Hotel sports sleek subway tiles, long oval mirrors and golden globe lights around a large granite island with deep sinks and modern faucets. It's best asset, however, is the quintessential Hollywood views it offers, from The Hollywood Sign and Griffith Observatory to the Capitol Records Building.
"Encased in floor-to-ceiling glass windows showcasing 180-degree iconic views, the restroom is just one example of how we provide our guests with an elevated experience," said Ayo Akinsete, the hotel's managing director and vice president of operations of Dream Hotel Group.