National Geographic voted Toronto’s 501 Streetcar as the #1 trolley ride in the world. Take that San Francisco!
Stretching from the Long Branch Loop in the west to Neville Park in the east, the 501 Streetcar has a route of 24.8 kilometres (15.4 miles). It’s not only the longest streetcar route operating in North America, but is also one of the longest streetcar routes operating in the world.
The route was first instituted in the mid to late 19th century by private operators as a horse drawn line. In 1921, when it was electrified it was taken over by the Toronto Transit Commision (TTC). Today if you want to take a cheap sight seeing trip across the city, the 501 Streetcar is your best bet. Showing the diversity of Toronto neighbourhoods, it runs along Lake Shore Boulevard picking up yummy mummies in leafy High Park, through gritty Parkdale and ultra hip Queen Street West, past City Hall, Nathan Phillips Square dropping off tourists at the Eaton Centre, into the rough depths of Moss Park while ascending across the Queen Street Bridge into trendy Riverside and Leslieville, ultimately ending at the relaxed Beaches.
Dubbed the ultimate Red Rocket Route or the Vomit Comet to others, the 501 provides service 24 hours a day. I jumped on right at the beginning at Neville Park and rode this baby all the way to the end (minus a 15 minute pit stop at Burger Priest). Notoriously slow with someone getting on at almost every stop, we chugged along through traffic, through re-routing, some dodgy clientele coming and going, and being a summer day – being stinky as hell. But I arrived in Long Branch an hour and 45 minutes later (it’s supposed to take 93 minutes on a good day).
Whether you love it or you loathe it, the 501 Streetcar has officially become a Toronto icon and the best trolley ride in the world. Just try not to ride it when you have to be somewhere on time!