They look like sculptures, whiskey barrels, even a giant mosaic-covered toilet--these public restrooms give guests more than one reason to visit.
We’ve come a long way from the days of the wooden outhouse, when the only adornment of those rustic rectangular boxes was a sliver of a moon cut out in the door to allow ventilation and light into the small, cramped interior. They weren’t places you’d want to linger.
Now, many restrooms have become more like works of art, featuring a pure gold toilet, lush green walls, or mosaic-coated surfaces. Others resemble sculptures or the entrance to a gold mine and are surrounded by beautiful landscaping. These restrooms give visitors more than one reason to visit, and some have even become destinations on their own.
Top Picks for You
WHERE: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
More than a million visitors a year flock to Longwood Gardens outside of Philadelphia to enjoy its 1,000+ acres of garden space, 4-acre Conservatory, special events, seasonal lights, and the “Summer of Spectacle” fountain show. There’s no need to leave the green space behind with a visit to the restrooms, where 17 stalls are situated along a curved indoor “Green Wall,” the longest in North America, encompassing 4,200 square feet. Want to learn more? These restrooms even have their own docents.
Modern Rest Rooms
WHERE: Minturn, Colorado
Voted Best Restroom in America in 2015 (yes, there is such a contest), this restroom in the tiny former mining town of Minturn, Colorado (population 1,200) was built to accommodate the growing number of tourists. Designed to mimic a passageway into a mine, the two restrooms are made of fabricated wood, with the interior of the women’s room painted turquoise and the men’s copper. Steel butterflies adorn the ceilings of both.
WHERE: Lucas, Kansas
Designated as the Grassroots Art Capital of Kansas by the governor, tiny Lucas took that designation, along with its reputation for eccentricity, to heart when it created public restrooms shaped like a giant toilet. And if that’s not enough to draw your attention, it’s covered inside and out with mosaics created by residents and local artists.
WHERE: New York City, New York
It’s debatable whether or not visitors have interacted with a piece of art in quite this way before. Visitors to the 4th-floor restroom in the Guggenheim Museum are allowed to actually use a piece of art created by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan for the “America” exhibition, a fully functioning toilet cast in 18-karat gold. The artist, who jokingly refers to it as the “Guggen-head,” wants visitors to draw their own conclusions about its meaning. Some people wait up to two hours for the opportunity for a private view, and to post their own Instagrams, with #royalflush being a popular hashtag.
Perry Lakes Park
WHERE: Marion, Alabama
While they may not be all that imaginatively named, the “Tall Toilet,” “Long Toilet,” and “Mound Toilet” at Perry Lakes Park in Marion, Alabama, are accurately named. These restrooms, connected by a raised walkway, were designed by architecture students at Auburn University Rural Studio. At 50’ high and made of wood, stainless steel and concrete, the “Tall Toilet” has a skylight for a view of the trees, while the walls of the “Long Toilet” actually include a tree in its interior. The Mound toilet is on top of the septic tank used for the facilities.
The Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail and Boardwalk at Lady Bird Lake
WHERE: Austin, Texas
Walkers, runners, and bikers love this 10-mile urban trail that runs through the city and borders Lady Bird Lake. But some get a bit confused when it comes to finding the facilities. That’s because they are housed in a sculpture made of steel plates of varying heights and widths that form a coil, with subtle signage in one section, resulting in a beautiful sculpture with its primary purpose not immediately evident. The low-maintenance restroom has natural lighting through openings in the ceiling, and stainless steel plumbing features.
Charleston Distilling Co.
WHERE: Charleston, South Carolina
Art? Maybe not. But these restrooms in the Charleston Distilling Company in South Carolina will get your attention as they are housed in two giant whiskey barrels set on the floor in the distillery. Although the exterior may be composed of wood reminiscent of the outhouse days, their large size and barrel shape are like nothing you’ve seen on quite this scale. Luxury touches on the inside include a copper sink and granite counters.
Shoji Tabuchi Theatre
WHERE: Branson, Missouri
Not all the drama is on the stage at this theater, where the bathrooms are also an attraction. They are 1,800-square-feet each with hand-screened wallpaper, black leather chairs, Victorian antiques, and stalls of imported marble. Gentlemen can enjoy a round of pool on the hand-carved mahogany billiard table while ladies freshen up in a space designed like a 1920s New Orleans courtyard. They can select from fragrances on the perfume cart and check their reflections in mirrors draped in garlands and cascading plumes of flowers.
WHERE: London, England
Visitors to the restrooms in Sketch restaurant may be expecting to be transported to another dimension when they close the door to their own vertical egg-shaped pod, an effect only enhanced by the celestial noises that envelop the space when they close the door. This group of white pods surrounded by white walls looks like the setting of a sci-fi movie, where aliens may come bursting forth at any moment. Those prone to claustrophobia may want to proceed with caution.
El Morro and San Cristobal, San Juan National Historic Site
WHERE: San Juan, Puerto Rico
Visitors may flock to El Morro and San Cristobal to view two well-preserved 16h-century forts and learn about their history of protecting San Juan Bay, as well as take in magnificent views of the bay. Guests are often astonished to see the view from inside the bathrooms as well, where huge stone archways let in natural light with expansive views as an iron gate covers only the lower section.