The Forbidden Vancouver Tour

Last updated on
Tuesday, January 16th, 2024
Experience type: 
Program Description

On the Forbidden Vancouver Tour you’ll explore Gastown, our city’s oldest neighbourhood. In the late 1910s our Province experimented with prohibition, meaning the sale of alcohol was banned. Enterprising criminals began to make money “bootlegging,” making and selling liquor illegally to a thirsty population. Even some government officials couldn’t resist the temptation to make a quick buck trafficking liquor.

As illegal drinking dens started to pop up throughout the city, the VPD formed a “Dry Squad” to hunt down bootleggers. Eventually mob boss Joe Celona had risen to the top of the city’s underworld, with even the Chief of Police on his payroll. Fighting for prohibition were the temperance union, a patchwork social movement formed by religious leaders, suffragists who wanted the vote for women, business owners, and many in the general population worried about the huge extent of alcohol abuse in Canada in the years leading up to prohibition, and particularly in Vancouver.

Many people of colour and particularly indigenous communities were brutally targeted under prohibition law, which was used by authorities to exert control over marginalized people. While prohibition was eventually repealed, it sadly remained in place for decades in the case of indigenous people. 

Once prohibition came into force south of the border, enterprising sailors made a fortune smuggling liquor down the West Coast in a practice known as “rum-running.” Vancouver’s Reifel family ran the largest rum running operation and would end up one of the country’s richest families. The Canadian government was even in on the act, charging an “export duty” on every case of liquor that left the country.

Discover all this and more on the Forbidden Vancouver Tour! A unique field trip for students from Grade 7 – University.

  • Duration – 2 hours
  • Start point – Outside Monaco Cafe at 356 Water Street
  • End point – Maple Tree Square, Gastown
Big Ideas
  • Collective identity is constructed and can change over time.
  • Disparities in power alter the balance of relationships between individuals and between societies.
  • Emerging ideas and ideologies profoundly influence societies and events.
  • The physical environment influences the nature of political, social, and economic change.
  • COVID Precautions
    • Limit of 20 guests per guide
    • Walking tours will take place completely outside. 
    • Mask wearing optional for students that prefer to wear masks
    • Anyone feeling ill, or who has been in contact with anyone ill in the previous two weeks, should not attend.
    Trip Details
    For Grades: 
    See notes. minutes unless otherwise stated.
    Maximum Students: 
    Offered In French: 
    Also Offered For: 
    Adult Groups, Daycamps, Guides, Homeschool, Other, Scouts
    Packages Provided: 
    Pre-Visit Information Package
    Fee Details
    Cost Per Student: 
    Cost Per Adult: 
    Fee Notes: 

    With a minimum of 20 students, we can offer you the discounted rate of $19.00 per student including GST.

    If you bring 19 students or less, then the price per student is $31.50 including GST.

    If you have any teachers or staff joining as chaperones, they attend free of charge!

    Additional Notes

    We can accommodate groups up to 80 students, depending on time of year. The walking tour is 2 hours in duration.