One big thing about NYC that your guidebooks might not have mentioned (besides all of the walking) is that we don’t have public restrooms. While this is not always the case throughout all of the USA, typically in the Big Apple you can’t just walk into any restaurant, bar, or café and ask to use the restroom unless you are purchasing something. You’ll often find signs in the window saying, “Restrooms are for customers only.”
Well, the big secret is that there are a few designated public restrooms — if you know where to find them. And some hotels and retail shops also offer pretty “magnificent facilities” that even George Costanza would praise. If you need to pee but also want to keep moving, here are some of our picks for the best options in Midtown.
Just steps from Times Square, you’ll find the Holy Grail of restrooms in NYC. While small (less than five stalls), the bathroom is a wonder to behold. You’ll find fresh flowers at the entrance, classical music, and attendants who clean after each use. On weekends and during the summer, you might have to wait in a line, but it’s definitely worth it even just to peek inside. Make sure to pay attention to the bathroom attendant who orchestrates the traffic.
The restrooms are located in the northeast area of the park, in a small, square building just before you go up the steps toward the library.
If a ride in their super-fast glass elevators aren’t reason enough to head to the ‘modern-90s’ lobby (you didn’t hear this from us, but on a slow day, head up to at least the 16th floor, then catch an elevator non-stop to the ground with your face pressed against the window — it’s pretty fun), the bathroom makes it worth the stop.
In the 8th-floor main lobby, you’ll find clean, large restrooms. On the ladies’ side there’s even a mirrored wall where you can sit and touch up your make-up, or even change from jeans and sneakers to a Broadway-worthy dress and heels. (Please, please, please don’t wear jeans to a Broadway show. Many do, but please don’t.)
To find the restrooms, take the elevator to the 8th floor. Make a right out of the elevator and follow the hall around until you see the shoe-shine stand on your left. The bathrooms are on either side.
This hotel, located just a block off Times Square, has some of the coolest restrooms we’ve seen. Inside the multi-gender room, you’ll find a hall of doors labelled with different themes ranging from ‘rebel’ to ‘macho’ to ‘vain’. Behind those doors is a single-person restroom decorated according to its theme. Make sure to check them all out.
Once inside the hotel lobby, walk to the left of the front desk and just before the restaurant you’ll find the bathroom door on your right.
Did you know there’s a whole underground shopping area at Rockefeller Center? Among the gift shops, restaurants, and a Starbucks, you’ll find a large bathroom that’s decently clean for a public bathroom of its size. Afterward, head up the escalator to see an amazing mural in the lobby of the famous 30 Rock building.
Depending on where you enter (via the subway, the elevators, or the stairs), it can be a little tricky to find your way underground. The best bet is to ask one of the many security guards standing around. If you enter through the lobby of 30 Rock, go to your left and take the staircase in the corner. At the bottom, make a right, pass the Swarovski Crystal store, and you’ll see the restrooms at the back of a large seating area.
The Apple Store
If you’re near Central Park or 5th Ave., The Apple Store at 59th St. and 5th Ave. offers a great single-person restroom that not a lot of people know about — meaning there’s usually not a big wait.
Once you go downstairs into the store, head toward the Genius Bar. Once there, go left and head up the long ramp. There will be a security guard at the top, but just ask for the restroom and they’ll point it out.
Need a bathroom in a different area of the city? Check out NY Restroom, which shows you on an interactive map what’s close by.
Want more insider tips for NYC? Jump on a New York City tour and we’ll teach you what the locals know!