Best Public Restrooms in New York City
Having lived in New York City for more than 20 years, I have made a mental list of the best public restrooms in many of Manhattan's most popular neighborhoods. So, if you find yourself having to go in SoHo or needing a pit stop before you shop for souvenirs in Times Square, this list should help you find easily accessible bathrooms that are open to the public.
1. The Winter Garden World Financial Center in Battery Park City
The Winter Garden is located near the North Cove Yacht Harbor. The steps of this beautiful glass pavilion, open to the public, are a popular spot for bridal photos, so don't be surprised if you catch a wedding party on your way to the restroom. The restrooms are on the ground floor to the right when you have your back to the big wall of windows. Facilities are clean and modern and I have never had to wait in line.
2. The Apple Store on 103 Prince St. in SoHo
A great place to play with all the latest Apple gadgets, it is also a welcome reprieve in Soho when you need a bathroom break. Restrooms are located on the second floor on the right side of the theater area. The theater is also a nice place to rest your feet in between sightseeing. The Apple Store on Fifth Avenue and 59th Street is another great option for a public restroom in New York, especially since that location is open 24 hours a day.
3. Macy's Herald Square, Broadway and 7th Avenue between 34th and 35th Sts.
Truth be told, I am not a big fan of the restrooms in Macy's at Herald Square. While plentiful, there is almost always a line, especially in the Ladies' Lounge on the second floor. Least of all evils, I have found over the years, is the restroom located in The Cellar on the Broadway side of the store (not the restroom on the 7th Avenue side near the cafe). The easiest way to get to this restroom is, when you enter the store through the main Broadway entrance, walk to your right and you will find a bank of elevators somewhat concealed by a wall. These elevators only stop at Cellar, Main Floor, 8 and 9. Take the elevators to the Cellar and the ladies' room will be toward the left.
4. Bryant Park located on Fifth and Sixth Avenues between 40th and 42nd Sts., behind the New York Public Library
Not at all your typical public park bathroom, the stone building sits directly behind the library on the 42nd Street side of the park. There may be a line but it is worth the wait. The entry foyer that separates the women's and men's rooms has a large framed full-length mirror and a vase of fresh flowers. The floors are restored mosaic. The actual restroom is staffed by an attendant who does a great job keeping it clean. Another great feature is the plastic-covered toilet seats that can be refreshed for each user. A big window lets in daylight and makes this a welcome reprieve in the middle of midtown.
5. Grand Central Terminal at 42nd Street and Lexington Ave.
You will be pleasantly surprised by the restrooms in this huge commuter hub, especially if you are a woman. That's because, in 2008, two newly renovated women-only restrooms were opened near the main waiting room. The restrooms were designed to match the carved interior of the terminal. Men's restrooms are located on the lower level along with another ladies room.
6. Marriott Marquis in Times Square at Broadway and 45th St.
One of my favorite rest stops in New York is in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Times Square. The Marriott Marquis provides clean, spacious facilities off their lobby. The lobby is located on the 8th floor of the building, so just take the elevators up. There is also a nice restaurant and lounge and several shops on the lobby level.
7. Bloomingdale's, Lexington Avenue and 59th St.
As far as department stores go, Bloomingdale's does pretty well in the bathroom department in that they have a lot of stalls and restrooms on several floors. Of particular note is the 4th floor Ladies' Lounge, which features stalls with floor to ceiling walls for maximum privacy. The lounge is located in the Intimate Apparel Department. I also like the ladies' restroom on the 8th floor (make a left off the elevators). This one is smaller but less crowded than the 4th floor facility.
8. Central Park
No visit to NYC is complete without a stop in Central Park. Although I can't say the bathrooms are exceptionally clean, they are fairly well placed. The nicer ones, based on my experience, are at Delacorte Theatre, West 81st Street at Turtle Pond; Bethesda Terrace, mid-Park at 72nd Street and by the Model Boathouse at East 74th Street. That's not to say you should avoid any of the others but they are all park bathrooms and the cleanliness will vary depending on the time of day and the time of year as the number of visitors to each facility will vary widely.
8. Coffee Shops
Personally, I try to avoid using the restrooms at Starbucks because there is usually a line for the single bathroom. But, the coffee chain is certainly a reasonable choice, with numerous locations in just about every NYC neighborhood.
9. Book Stores
The chains I prefer are Barnes and Noble and Borders Booksellers. The Barnes & Noble on 17th Street and Union Square has a fairly nice bathroom on the second floor near the children's section. Barnes & Noble on East 86th Street between Lexington and Third also has a good restroom on the second lower level. Borders book store on Park Avenue and 57th St. has a clean bathroom on the upper level and, as an added bonus, a cafe where you can usually get a seat.