Toronto's Queen Street West by streetcar

Hop aboard the 501 Queen streetcar for a cross-section journey of Toronto’s cool landmarks and hotspots

Travelling by tram is evocative of nostalgic times—just look at the enduring appeal of world-famous trolleys in San Francisco, Portugal and Hong Kong. But right in Toronto, Ont., you can journey along one of the longest streetcar routes in North America by catching a ride on the 501 Queen streetcar. It’s so iconic that National Geographic even named this streetcar one of the top 10 trolley rides in the world in its coffee table book, Journeys of a Lifetime.

What started back in 1875 as horse-drawn trams evolved into the iconic President’s Conference Committee (PCC) trolleys in the 1930s—Red Rockets—and the current distinctive red and white Articulated Light Rail Vehicle (ALRV) cars you see today. The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) is expecting to release new test cars by 2013.

Route 501 spans 24.4 kilometres and remains one of the city’s busiest lines—looping from Lake Shore Boulevard in the west through downtown Toronto to the Beaches district in the east. Get a TTC pass for the day ($10.50) or week ($37.50) and hop on and off at your own whim—but spend a bit more time west of Yonge Street for a dose of cool along Queen Street West.

High Park

This 399-acre park is one of the largest green spaces in the city and it contains a mini zoo, Grenadier Pond and an outdoor stage for Shakespeare in the Park. End of April and early May is the best time to see the park’s famous Japanese cherry blossom trees in bloom. (Disembark at Parkside Dr. from the 501 Queen streetcar)

Drake General Store

The Drake Hotel’s arty vibe makes it hipster central, but it’s also a cool place to bed down. Down the block, the hotel store is chock-full of Canadiana curios like antique toys, mugs, wool coats, old-fashioned toothpaste, books and more. (1144 Queen St. W; 416-531-5042 ext. 101)

Church Apertivo

Occupying a former Slavic church, this brand-new Italian small plates eatery retains the building’s original wooden ceiling beams, arch doorways and brick walls. Try the church-named drinks such as the Holy Caesar or nibble on polenta poutine and meatballs.(1090 Queen St. W; 416-537-1090)

Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art

MOCCA anchors the city’s arts and design district. Pay what you can for admission and catch artist talks, music performances and a permanent collection of more than 400 works by Canadian visual artists. This month, it is the hub for the Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival. (952 Queen St. W.)

Trinity Bellwoods Park

Join a mash-up of dog-walkers, picnicking couples, urban hippies and families who laze about in this popular public park between Queen West and Dundas Street. Starting May 8, the Trinity Bellwoods Farmers Markets will occupy the northwest corner of the park every Tuesday. (790 Queen St. W.)

Durumi & Chocolate Shoes

This two-in-one boutique stocks vintage-inspired women’s clothes, accessories and funky footwear from Korea. Think flirty and feminine dresses, patterned skirts and graphic print leggings. You'll also find cheeky punctuation jewelry, handmade floral shoe clips and spiky heels here. (416 Queen St. W.; 647-727-2591)