Updated: Oct 17, 2021
WHAT'S IN IT FOR YOU? Three good reasons to get out of the house: painted silos + red pigeons + artsy benches. (Note: This courtesy self-guided tour is not included in the 26 urban strolls and 52 mini-walks in the author's Toronto guide.)
I really like Arvo's coffee shop in The Distillery. When I heard they were opening another location in Liberty Village, I decided to pay a visit to this neighbourhood, which I hadn't seen in a few years. As I was looking for parking, I noticed the South Liberty Trail sign on a painted silo. But I could not see a trail per se…
But first things first, coffee
Arvo is the second coffee shop located at The Distillery, to have opened in Liberty Village. Balzac's was the first, years ago. They are not far from each other, but quite different. While Balzac's (43 Hanna Avenue) is housed in a beautiful historic building, Arvo (80 Atlantic Avenue) opted for a large, bright space in a new building.
For the first time since the pandemic, I sat IN a coffee shop, taking advantage of Arvo's internet connection to do my research on the intriguing South Liberty Trail. As luck would have it, Arvo just happens to be on the street that includes the trail's first stop.
Before you begin the walk, take a look at the colourful wood collage which adorns the walkway just north of the cafe. Then head south to the end of Atlantic Avenue.
South Liberty Trail
In 2017, a public art project (the first of its kind in Toronto) run by Mural Routes chose as its canvas four large silos and two hoppers (sort of like large metal funnels) not far from the railroad tracks in the southern part of the neighbourhood. The South Liberty Trail was born.
Don't expect an urban nature trail! This is an old industrial part of town. Although the trail officially starts at Exhibition GO Station, the works are located between Atlantic Avenue and Dufferin Street. Constructions at the foot of Atlantic are currently blocking access to the GO Train station to the east.
You can see the first silo at the foot of Atlantic Avenue, located near Joe Fresh's head quarters (2 Atlantic Ave). You’ve got to walk around the 8-meter tall work by artist Young Jarus to see the beautiful bird hiding on the other side.
Crossing the ground towards the west, you’ll pass through a very small patch of greenery and will reach the giant Canadian goose by birdO aka Jerry Rugg on the red silo. Then, we walk along old buildings covered with graffiti. There are some great finds, including a large perspective mural. Look closely at the red brick building with arches painted in the centre. You'll see the real one a little further at the corner of Mowat Ave and Liberty St.
The beautiful silo overlooking Fraser Street is by muralist Alex Bacon. Look for the cat! Then head up Fraser Street to see Bacon's giant eye on the hopper of The Bakery (2 Fraser Street). Explore behind the hopper to see the gorgeous nest he painted.
Walk north around the building on Fraser and through the first parking space to Mowat Avenue, where you will turn left to see Troy Lovegates’ funky characters on a white silo.
Cross the street and walk west into the first parking space to your left. It belongs to SoftChoice (20 Mowat Avenue) and leads to Dufferin Street, where another Troy work is featured on the hopper.
I completed this part of the walk by going north up Dufferin and then finding my way east on Liberty Street. Along the way, we notice beautiful bike stands and cut-out metal public benches. The neighbourhood received 14 of these in 2019.
My favorite is on Pardee Avenue, three blocks to the east. I first treated myself with a scrumptious cardamom knot from BrodFlour Bakery (8 Pardee Avenue), which I then ate, settled in with Thelia Shelton's little yellow dancers on the bench directly across the street.
This is a 2-km stroll. You can add another 2k to your walk by following the next section.
Exploring Liberty Village
South of Liberty Street, you can cross the large parking lot between Jefferson and Hanna to reach the only covered walkway I know of in Toronto. As I walked through it, I was delighted to discover that one of my favorite little restaurants just opened a take-out counter there, called Aloette Liberty Village.
When exiting the walkway on the other side, continue down E. Liberty Street to see some serious pieces of public art: the balancing rocks at 89 E. Liberty, and Nathan Mabry's red pigeons at 49 E. Liberty, just east of Pirandello Street.
Then take Western Battery Road to the left, right before Strachan Avenue, and use the shortcuts through the small parkettes to get to Pirandello. Turn right onto Western Battery Road, then left.
At the bend in the road you will notice a building with large starburst windows. This is the stairwell and elevator shaft of the pedestrian bridge that crosses over the railroad tracks to reach Douro Street. It’s when using the elevator that one can fully admire the stars.
I concluded the walk by heading west to Hanna Avenue, where a pedestrian walkway runs along the West Elm store (which seems to be open only for pick-ups) and down to King West Street. The viaduct at this point dates back to 1888 (one of the oldest in Toronto).
Nathalie Prézeau is the author of 262-page walking guide: Toronto BEST Urban Strolls, You can get it online on Amazon, Indigo, in Toronto bookstores or directly from the publisher. The author delivers in Toronto and Canada Post takes care of the other destinations. You can also contact the author directly for pick up arrangements (with a discount) at 299 Booth Avenue (Leslieville) Toronto. Contact: email@example.com.