The Next Time You're At These US Airports, Make Sure To Visit Their Award-Winning Bathrooms

For two consecutive years, America's best restroom has been in an airport, of all places. So says Cintas, the supply company that sponsors the official America's Best Restroom contest, now in its 22nd year. No, this isn't a belated April Fools' joke. They really do hand out an award for best restroom every year, based on five judging criteria: cleanliness, visual appeal, innovation, functionality, and unique design elements. In 2023, the award went to Baltimore/Washington International (BWI) Thurgood Marshall Airport. In 2022, it went to Tampa International Airport (TPA).

BWI is 9 miles from downtown Baltimore and 32 miles from the nation's capital, Washington D.C. TPA is 15 miles from the popular theme park, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, and 30 miles from Florida's flagship bridge, the Sunshine Skyway. Some people are terrified of this bridge, which has drawn comparisons to the one that collapsed in Baltimore in 2024. Yet beyond their link in recent headlines, Baltimore and the Tampa area also share an offbeat airport superlative in common. Your next pit stop in BWI or TPA could see you utilizing one of two facilities in the America's Best Restroom Hall of Fame.

If the notion sounds absurd or even slightly alarming, not to worry. The Hall of Fame isn't an actual museum where visitors would observe you entering a bathroom stall and doing your business. Since visiting a public restroom may be a necessity in your travels, however, you might as well do it in style in these two airports.

Why BWI won the America's Best Restroom title

Not every bathroom in BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport was a contender for America's Best Restroom. When the airport became a finalist in the contest in July 2023, it was on the basis of new, designer restrooms with white, blue-accented interiors in Concourse B (near Gates B2-B4). These became the model, in subsequent weeks and months, for similar high-tech restrooms in Concourse C (beside Gate C2 and near Gate C9) and Concourse D (beside Gate D7). They were part of a $55-million upgrade of six sets of restrooms in those three concourses only.

If you've passed through BWI before and were unimpressed with the restrooms, it's possible you were in the wrong area or missed the rollout of the new ones. In a press release, Cintas noted each of the airport's award-winning lavatories is equipped with a cutting-edge "smart restroom" system that uses digital signage and LED lights (green or red) to show stall availability and occupancy. The company further highlighted the touchless fixtures, roomy stalls, and stylish entrance mural as features that enhance each restroom's appeal. The urinals and stalls also sport full-length dividers and doors for added privacy.

Speaking to Fox 5 Washington DC, multiple passengers in transit through BWI praised the cleanliness of the new restrooms. One interviewee likened them on-camera to a refreshing spa. Another declared, "I have never been in a restroom that looked like that. It's wonderful. It's beautiful. It's modern. It's sleek. It's clean."

From Baltimore to Tampa International

Each winner of the America's Best Restroom contest receives $2,500 in Cintas credit, which it can use to keep its lavatories sparkling fresh even after they're no longer the reigning title holder. Tampa International Airport donated its prize to facilities impacted by Hurricane Ian in 2022. It won the prize with its Florida-themed restrooms in Airside C, but the airport has since refurbished the restrooms in its other terminals to match C's quality. Anywhere you go in TPA, you'll be visiting a world-class restroom by contest standards. Among the amenities here are trough-style, sensor-activating sinks, where you can dry your hands with your own personal paper towel dispenser.

Chalk it up to the restrooms, maybe, but TPA is Samantha Brown's favorite airport in the world. It also ranked highest among large airports in J.D. Power's 2023 North America Airport Satisfaction Study. Meanwhile, BWI, the busiest airport in its region, announced in 2024 that it had broken its pre-pandemic record for international passengers, bringing in over 1.3 million of them the year prior.

With so many flights being routed through these airports, and so many travelers loving them and their facilities, you might not even have to go out of your way to have an award-winning trip to the restroom. Ask anyone who's ever investigated the public art that inspired the Denver Airport conspiracy theories. Sometimes, exploring an airport on a layover can yield surprising discoveries — yes, even in the squeaky-clean new restroom deemed America's best.