Balzac's Coffee Roasters is a popular Liberty Village gathering place

Toronto’s Liberty Village for Grey Cup Goers

By Kellie Davenport

The 104th Grey Cup kicks off this November in Toronto, but you’ll have to head a little west of downtown to take in the big game at BMO Field. Nestled on the city’s Exhibition grounds, the recently expanded stadium is home to the CFL’s Argos and Major League Soccer’s Toronto FC.

While the field will welcome fans for gridiron action and other football festivities, you may also want to allot some time to explore the Liberty Village neighbourhood immediately to the north. The area bordered by King, Dufferin and Strachan streets is one of Toronto’s newer residential communities. Just a decade ago, there was little more than some factory-converted offices and a smattering of studios and lofts. Today, it’s a booming condo community and a hub for sporting events, design shops and trendy eateries.

Take a little pre- or post-game time to explore this trendy and bustling enclave.

Pre-game primping at Axe & Hatchet
A recent addition to the neighbourhood, Axe & Hatchet Grooming Club offers hipster-friendly beard trims, classic hot shaves, preppy brush cuts and other manly services. Or go for the gusto at this vintage-inspired barbershop with The Works, a hot shave and haircut combo.

History lesson at Fort York
Just west of Liberty Village off Strachan Avenue, you’ll find Fort York—one of Canada’s key strongholds in the War of 1812 and site of the oldest settlement in Toronto. Take a walk through the hallowed grounds and explore original buildings that once housed British and Canadian troops. You could also catch one of the many food, music and cultural festivals the fort hosts in this historic setting.

Design time at West Elm and Casa Life
A longtime resident of the village, West Elm set up shop here in 2008—and it’s been outfitting the homes of stylish Torontonians ever since. The store is one of a handful of Canadian locations of the U.S. home decor retailer and it’s a must-shop for design aficionados and Instagrammers.

Another stop for wannabe-stylists is Casa Life. While the shop focuses more on modern furniture and higher-end pieces, it also showcases quirky accessories that’ll easily fit in a suitcase.

A decadent School brunch

Patio time at Williams Landing
For dinner and a view, head to Williams Landing, a combination sports bar, upscale pub and swanky nightspot. Weather permitting, get a table on the heated patio for city views overlooking Liberty Village. Your best bets on the menu: the “Redemption Burger,” duck poutine or jambalaya risotto.

Go back to School
Everything’s academic at School, the classroom-themed eatery that boasts one of Toronto’s best brunches. To partake in the mid-morning meal, get there early as queues are common on weekends. When you do get a table, go to the head of the class by ordering the signature Krispy Krunchy French toast or a classic PB&J.

Caffeine fix at Balzac’s
The bean of choice for local caffeine connoisseurs is brewed in the former Irwin Toy factory, famous for producing Jenga, Oopsie Daisy and Pound Puppies. Instead of churning out cherubic dolls, Balzac’s Coffee Roasters serves up some of the finest java in the city—perfect for refueling before the big game.

Raise a pint at The Craft
One of the top spots for hops in the city rests in the heart of Liberty Village: The Craft Brasserie serves more than 120 kinds of beer on tap. The two-year-old centre of suds pours everything from local Ontario lagers, stouts and ales to the best Belgian brews and beyond. Can’t decide which to sip? Order a beer flight to sample four different kinds for a very reasonable $11.

Toronto’s downtown core is still your best bet for accommodations (there are no hotels specifically in Liberty Village). Among the most centrally located is the Fairmont Royal York, a grand railroad hotel that, if history repeats itself, will find itself welcoming a Calgary Stampeders’ horse on Grey Cup weekend. (The team’s equine trotted into the hotel lobby in 2012, when Toronto last hosted the big game.) AMA members can save up to 20% and get a $50 dining credit.

Or for more modern digs, check out the soaring Delta Hotel Toronto, which features complimentary Wi-Fi, indoor pool with beautiful city views, and even a swank whisky bar. Members save 5% or more on bookings made with AMA.

If you’re staying downtown, hop on the 501 Queen or 504 King streetcars westbound to Dufferin or Strachan, respectively, and walk a few minutes southwest to the village.

If you’re coming from one of the nearby suburbs, take the commuter GO Train on the Lakeshore line and get off at Exhibition station. Liberty Village is on the north side of the tracks, while BMO Field is to the south.

By Uber or taxi, the area is a short $10 to $15 ride from the heart of the city.

And note, too, that visitors to Toronto can now hop on the UP Express to travel quickly and easily between Toronto Pearson International Airport and Union Station in the heart of the city. The 25-minute journey has departures (from both terminals) every 15 minutes.

Deal on wheels: Driving isn’t always the best way to navigate Toronto, but if you’re most comfortable in a car, AMA members save up to 20% and earn up to 25 reward dollars on rentals from Hertz.

Dinner deals: AMA membership is rewarding when it comes to eating out. Get $5 off a minimum purchase of $30 at Bier Markt (there’s a location on King Street, just east of Liberty Village), or get a free appetizer when you spend $30 at Milestones. Looking for a quicker, more casual bite? Two can dine for $15.99 at Swiss Chalet, and two can dine for $10.49 at Harvey’s.