In 2006, Will Woods moved to Vancouver with his wife Alicia, on a work visa from London England.

“I had worked for Deloitte on their Risk Advisory team in London and transferred here with them,” says Will. “After about five years in Vancouver, I decided it was time to pursue my dream of starting my own company.”

Inspired by travel and experiencing tours in other cities, Will developed a passion for history and storytelling. “The Edinburgh Ghost Tours and Underground Seattle do an incredible job transporting people back in time to the city’s past,” explains Will. “I thought, “Vancouver needs something like that!” and got to work.” Will, in fact, did get to work and devoted most of his time to making his dream come true. “I spent many hours in the City of Vancouver archives and enrolled in an evening acting school,” he says. “After a year or so, I was ready to launch.”

Will started his business, Forbidden Vancouver Walking Tours, in 2012. It initially ran as a one-man show, providing walking tours about Vancouver’s prohibition. It has since grown and become an industry staple for tourists and locals alike. This year, Forbidden Vancouver offers five walking tours, including the Monumental Scandals Tour, which takes place in the downtown Vancouver catchment. “We also stage a number of special events throughout the year, like Secrets of the Penthouse,” explains Will. “We’ve run this event countless times, and it always sells out.”

“Pretty much every street in downtown Vancouver is teeming with history,” says Will. “Sure, we’ve lost heritage buildings over the years, but we’ve also kept some incredible ones like the Marine Building, Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, and the Vogue Theatre.”  Will also notes that the history of Vancouver is a history of colonization, and Forbidden Vancouver takes its responsibility seriously when talking candidly about the impacts of colonization on the local Nations. “Of course, from the first arrival of settlers in the 1860s to today, downtown Vancouver has totally transformed,” he says. “It’s an honour to share the stories of that transformation with people.”

When we asked Will what some of the highlights of running his business were so far, he responded in the most “Will” way possible. “Hearing from guests about how much they’ve enjoyed their experience never gets old,” he says. On a more personal level, he also finds it rewarding to run a company that provides paid work to actors and entertainers, keeping them afloat as they build their careers. “It can be a tough slog in Vancouver, making it in the performing arts,” explains Will. “Giving talented people work that they love, and some stability inspires me every day.”

There’s a bright future ahead for Will and Forbidden Vancouver. As previously mentioned, they just launched their brand-new walking tour in the downtown core, “The Monumental Scandals Tour.” “The feedback has been incredible so far, and we’ve had quite a bit of media interest with CBC, Vancouver Sun, and Daily Hive running stories on it,” says Will. “The tour covers everything from corrupt mayors to murdered architects, to scandalous vaudeville dancers and Depression-era riots.”

Downtown Van was fortunate to preview the tour before it went live to the public, and we can agree that it’s worth the hype.

Click here to learn more about Forbidden Vancouver Walking Tours or book a tour.