City Guide Grand Rapids Michigan

What to do in the Grand Rapids, Michigan Area as a Travel Nurse

If an art-focused city featuring all four seasons and a hospital that embraces the latest technology are requirements for your next travel assignment, you may want to give Grand Rapids, Michigan a try. Located about 30 miles east of Lake Michigan, Grand Rapids offers plenty for outdoors and nature lovers to explore, but also lots of art, culture and entertainment activities to enjoy indoors. Grand Rapids is known for its numerous microbreweries and has appeared on a variety of “must-visit cities” lists in various online publications. This is our city guide for nurses wondering what to eat, drink, do and Instagram while on a travel assignment in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Eat This!

Real Food Cafe

Travel nurses in Grand Rapids craving made-from-scratch meals that feature popular American comfort foods should look no further than Real Food Café. This local favorite restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and brunch and is known for its exceptionally delicious cinnamon roll pancakes. You can also enjoy a variety of omelets, frittatas, breakfast sandwiches and a dozen different types of pancakes and waffles. The lunch menu features numerous sandwiches, burgers and salads, which you should definitely consider pairing with one of their homemade milkshakes, malts or root beer floats.

The Pit Stop

The last place on earth where you’d expect to find world-class barbecue is in Grand Rapids, but travel nurses who dig this cuisine will be pleasantly surprised by The Pit Stop. The fact that they are open just two days a week -- Thursday and Friday -- only adds to their allure. Dried Michigan cherry pits are the secret to their food’s sweet yet smoky flavor, and they have been awarded numerous accolades in both local and state competitions over the years. In addition to some of the very best beef brisket, pulled pork, smoked sausage and turkey breast you will ever eat, be sure to try their homemade sides, which include a macaroni and cheese that will make you forget you came for barbecue.

Drink This!

Max’s South Seas Hideaway

While on assignment in Grand Rapids, Michigan, there may be times you wish you could whisk yourself away to a deserted island. If a trip to Hawaii doesn’t fit into your budget or timeline, you may want to give Max’s South Seas Hideaway a try. This tiki bar will make you feel like you’ve escaped to a tropical paradise, if only for the night. Walls lined with hand-carved tikis, a 500-gallon saltwater aquarium filled with colorful fish and custom-made tiki lamps will transport you to another world. Exotic, fruity cocktails and sumptuous meals featuring choice cuts of beef, pork, chicken and seafood are garnished with beautiful flowers that make each dish look like a work of art.

The Sparrows Coffee Tea & Newsstand

If you’re looking for a decent cup of coffee along with a whole lot of character, be sure to stop into The Sparrows Coffee, Tea and Newsstand while on your travel assignment in Grand Rapids. This is just the kind of homey yet eclectic hangout that the Midwest is famous for. The menu features your typical variety of expresso drinks, teas, cold brew and even bubble tea, but each cup is always outstanding. House specialties include the Lady Lazarus Latte with house made lavender syrup and a chai latte with a house made blend of spices and black tea. Don’t forget to check out the magazine selection which features a variety of hard-to-find print edition publications.

Do This!

Grand Haven State Park

If you decide to take a travel nursing assignment in Grand Rapids, you simply must make at least one trip to the coast of Lake Michigan while you are there. Grand Haven State Park is just 35 miles west of Grand Rapids, and it offers the perfect way for you to explore all that Lake Michigan has to offer, from swimming and boating to fishing, camping and more. The 48-acre park features a sandy shore beach and scenic views of Lake Michigan and the Grand Haven Pier and lighthouse. Enjoy a beautiful day at the beach and then stay to experience one of the most fabulous sunsets you may ever see.

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

The Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park has received more than 12 million guests since 1995, all of whom come to enjoy the park’s unique combination of nature and art. The outdoor garden includes year-round plantings that can be enjoyed even during winter and is the perfect place to experience the changing of the colors in autumn or snowfall in the colder months. Indoors, the 5-story, 15,000 square-foot conservatory features rock landscapes, a magnificent waterfall and numerous exotic plants from around the world, including fig plants, orchids, bamboo and more. Additionally, the park features close to 300 sculptures, including Leonardo da Vinci’s Horse, which encompass one of the most significant collections in the US.

Instagram This!

The Blue Bridge

If you are looking for a super creative composition to document your Grand Rapids travel assignment through photography, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better prop than the city’s infamous Blue Bridge. Although it has been closed to trains since the 80s, the Blue Bridge is the oldest railroad bridge in the city, currently only open to pedestrian traffic. This iconic landmark has become symbolic of Grand Rapids and it allows you to create numerous artsy photographs, whether you use the bridge to frame your shot or make it your subject. It is especially photogenic at night, when it is lit up by a twilit, pre-sunset sky.

La Grande Vitesse (A Calder Sculpture)

La Grande Vitesse, located on the concrete plaza near city hall in downtown Grand Rapids, is a public sculpture by American artist Alexander Calder. Calder’s work is featured numerous permanent collections throughout the world, including at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Guggenheim Museum and the Museum of Modern Art. The bright red work of art, standing 43 feet tall, 54 feet long and 30 feet wide, is hard to miss and has become the unofficial symbol of the city. Allow its massive size to inspire you rather than intimidate you, and you will find that there are numerous ways to photograph this unique subject that will enthrall all of the followers on your newsfeed.

Search current travel nurse jobs in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area or get inspiration on other exciting locations with our City Guides for Travel Nurses.

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