City

Metro Canada (Vancouver) - - VANCOUVER -

From back-al­ley glimpses into the his­toric broth­els and opium dens of Chi­na­town, to an ed­i­ble tour of his­toric Ja­pan-town, Van­cou­ver tour com­pa­nies are get­ting cre­ative and ex­plor­ing the hid­den side of the city.

For­bid­den Walk­ing Tours show­cases the mys­ter­ies of Van­cou­ver’s darker side, in­clud­ing a Pro­hi­bi­tion City tour, and a Lost Souls of Gas­town tour fea­tur­ing sto­ries of the great fire, small­pox out­breaks and un­solved mur­ders. Even bu­colic Stan­ley Park has se­cret ceme­ter­ies and the fas­ci­nat­ing his­tory of Dead­man’s Is­land.

Owner Will Woods was in­spired by tours he’d joined in other cities, in­clud­ing the Ed­in­burgh Ghost Tours, “which use ac­tors and gothic dark spaces to cre­ate re­ally com­pelling ex­pe­ri­ences.” He de­cided Van­cou­ver needed some­thing sim­i­lar.

Van­cou­ver’s sta­tus as a port city means, as mayor L.D. Tay­lor so aptly put it in the 1920s, “We ain’t no Sun­day School town.”

“The char­ac­ters that have made Van­cou­ver home over the years have left so many sto­ries to tell,” said Woods.

One of the most pop­u­lar For­bid­den Tours is The Se­crets of the Pen­t­house tour, held at the over 70-year-old venue.

The evening in­cludes a guided back­stage tour by club owner Danny Filip­pone (whose fam­ily built the club in the 40s), au­thor Aaron Chap­man, and re­tired VPD of­fi­cer Grant McDon­ald.

“The sto­ries they share of the crimes, the mob­sters, the scan­dals as­so­ci­ated with the Pen­t­house have to be heard to be be­lieved, “said Woods.

They at­tract an al­most equal num­ber of tourists and lo­cals. Woods ex­plained that, “It opens the whole tour up and gives it a real ca­ma­raderie. We even had one cou­ple who met on our tour and then got mar­ried.“

At Off the Eaten Path, tours focus on the lesser-known culi­nary gems of the city. Co-founder Bon­nie Todd has a back­ground in tourism and a pas­sion for travel and good food.

“I tend to see more ad­ven­tur­ous travellers and a bit younger de­mo­graphic as our tours focus on non-touristy ar­eas,” she said. “We also get a lot of lo­cals, par­tic­u­larly in the win­ter, that are just look­ing for some­thing dif­fer­ent to do and to maybe get out of their food rut.”

Con­trib­uted

For­bid­den Walk­ing Tours takes tourists and lo­cals for trips down Van­cou­ver’s colour­ful past.

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