From The Literary Gothamite:
It's happened to many of us. You're walking in or around Times Square - maybe just after work, or just after dinner, just after a movie, whatever - and you suddenly realize that maybe you should have used the facilities where you were last. But you didn't. And now you're in the middle of the big bad city, and you have got to go.
This has happened to me a few times - a matter of bad judgment, really - and so when I'm in a bind, praying that I don't wet myself, I know just where to go based on where I am at that moment.
Last night (Tuesday night) was very mild, very comfortable, so I decided to walk through Bryant Park after work. I had just gotten to 42nd Street, by the subway entrance between 7th & Broadway, when I realized the items in my shoulder bag had shifted, and were hitting my arm uncomfortably, so I stopped under the scaffolding to adjust. That's when I noticed a young woman (and obvious tourist, too) approach the NYPD Officer standing just a few feet away from me.
I heard her ask him where the nearest restroom was. His response was to look baffled, peer around in a few different directions, squint at her and say "there are no public restrooms." I could have smacked him. Instead I tapped the woman on the arm and directed her to what I believed the nearest restroom to be. It turns out there was one closer, but it had just opened and I didn't know about it until after I'd directed her.
Seriously, though? A cop standing in the midst of Times Square and claiming not to be aware of any bathrooms? Fail. BIG Fail. This is very useful information to have (and I don't have all of it, but I have quite a bit), so I'm going to share it with you now: where to find a bathroom in midtown Manhattan.
Note: if you're in the city and know of a public/free/cheap restroom - feel free to comment!
Starting at the bottom of the map:
A. Manhattan Mall - There's a big 'ole JC Penny there now, and yes, there's a restroom (not *in* the JC Penny, but on Level 2, the next level above street level)! No purchase necessary!
B. Macy's - Restrooms are noted on the floor plans - definitely no purchase necessary.
C. Penn Station - It's not pretty, and you may wanna bring your own toilet paper, but these restrooms are well-monitored (for homeless people and sexual predators) and sometimes there's a line, but a bathroom's a bathroom.
D. Lord & Taylor - Immaculate public restrooms.
E. The Mid-Manhattan Library - you don't even need a library card to use the restrooms, which are on the 2nd, 3rd and 5th floors. The 2nd floor ones are usually locked, so I just go automatically to the 3rd floor (they're to the right when you get off of the elevators).
F. Grand Central Terminal - There are restrooms on both ends of the food court/concourse downstairs.
G. Bryant Park - on 42nd street, right behind the New York Public Library - small, but convenient.
H. Stitch - I only recommend this one if you're willing to purchase an alcoholic beverage. Stop by the bar as you walk in and order your drink, then head for the restroom across the way on the first floor.
I. McDonalds - I really don't recommend this one, but if you're in a fix, it's there.
J. Charmin - Charmin just opened this Times Square location. I haven't been in yet, but it's decorated with clouds and bears who look like they've really gotta go. And the staff are dressed up in lab coats, as if they're taking down scientific data about your Charmin experience, but really they're just glorified bathroom attendants.
K. Times Square subway station - this is great if you're in the middle of a commute. The restrooms are located near the elevator between the I-2-3 and the N-Q and S. Note: the station connects to the Port Authority, where there are also public restrooms on the concourse level.
K.5. (Because i forgot to label it before I started adding letters) Toys R' Us - only if you're brave enough to withstand children with idiot parents. Take the escalators up to the second floor and look for the signs indicating customer service/gift wrapping/restrooms - no purchase is necessary - also, no children are necessary.
L. Marriot Marquis Hotel - My favorite Times Square bathroom. Enter the hotel lobby via the revolving doors OR through the Starbucks, and take the escalator up to the 2nd floor OR take the elevators up to the 8th floor shopping concourse. Both levels have public restrooms.
M. I'm not sure what to call this, nor do I absolutely recommend that you use the bathroom here - it's a food court of sorts located at 705 8th Avenue, between 44th and 45th, and at any point in time it could have a Pizza Hut, a Church's Chicken, a Chinese place, a Juice Bar, a Nathan's Hotdogs, and an Arthur Treachers ALL in the one place...and they have a tiny little dirty bathroom through the back and down the hall...
N. Rockefeller Center - their public shopping concourse comes with public restrooms!
O. M&M World - no purchase necessary, but expect to purchase something...it's M&M World for gods' sake. Restrooms are on the top level.
P. Bamboo 52 - This is another one where you may need to put in an order for a beverage and then hit the bathroom. Good news - they have edamame, and they're not terribly pricey.
Q. D.J. Reynolds - Definitely plan to order a drink, here. They've recently classed the place up slightly - and by that, I mean the prices have gone up - and they're not too keen on freebies.
R. Time Warner Center - There are 3 restrooms - 1) Whole Foods - basement level, hang a left when you get off of the escalator and circle through the dining area - bathrooms will be on the left, 2) Borders - 2nd floor of the TWC, right in front of you off of the escalators, and the restroom is inside the store - hang a right directly after the cafe, 3) TWC restrooms - go to the second floor and once off the escalator head North-ish towards Sephora, but stay to your left. A mall-restroom-like hallway will appear to your left.
I hope this helps!