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True looky-loos: In search of America's best restroom

September 07, 2012|By Mary Forgione | Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger
  • One of the refurbished restrooms at the Hollywood Bowl. The venue is one of 10 finalists in the America's Best Restroom contest.
One of the refurbished restrooms at the Hollywood Bowl. The venue is one… (Jim Simmons / courtesy Cintas )

"Every traveler has one or two great toilet stories," Rick Steves writes in his primer on finding a toilet while abroad. Usually, the stories take a dark and even unspeakable turn. But then there's the flip side, restrooms so over-the-top plush or whimsically designed that they inspire a bathroom bucket list.

Ten public bathrooms across the country, including those at the Hollywood Bowl and the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino's Vanity nightclub in Las Vegas, are among the 2012 contenders for the honor of being named  America's Best Restroom. Each has signature flairs that set them apart, such as Italian art and sculptures at a New York restaurant, mirrors that double as TV screens that play messages at Virginia Tech's Lane Stadium and the 83 stalls at one venue in New Braunfels, Texas. 

Restroom cleaning supplier Cintas of Cincinnati has run this contest for more than a decade and inducts worthy loos into its Hall of Fame each year. The company invites anyone to review photographs and profiles of each site and then cast their vote for the top spot online.

In the profiles, the Hollywood Bowl's refurbished restrooms get props for 1920s-style curved lines and large round mirrors that echo the shape of the band shell and, in the largest restroom, a system that uses red and green lights to signal which stalls are free.

The $1.2-million bathrooms at Vanity nightclub on the Las Vegas Strip wins high marks for the lighted individual vanities with red-velvet seats and a $40,000 chandelier made from glass globes in the women's room (the men's room has "faux reptile-skin walls" and flat-screen TVs over the urinals).

Other contenders include Mie N Yu Restaurant in Washington, D.C., which features a unisex washroom with copper basins inside large wooden barrels, and Asian accents, and the loo in the lobby of Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel in Chicago, which dazzles with sparkling glass mosaic tile wallpaper and sleek fixtures.

Top honors in 2011 went to the men's and women's rooms at the Field Museum in Chicago.

Voting for this year's contest will continue until Oct. 26 with a winner and runner-up to be announced later in fall. 

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