The tours get a 5 out of 5 rating on TripAdvisor and are highly recommended.
Guided Tours in Vancouver’s Chinatown
As its name suggests, Historical Chinatown Tours is a company that provides tours in Vancouver’s Chinatown district. The neighbourhood is the largest Chinatown in all of Canada, so there’s lots to see.
A goal of Historical Chinatown Tours is to benefit Chinatown and to educate people about its history and significance. Its mission is to “educate, enlighten, and entertain its clients through the history and culture of Vancouver’s Chinatown.” The company is run by Judy Lam Maxwell. Her nickname is “Chinatowngirl”. Judy is the owner, but also the guide who hosts all the tours.
In addition to entertaining and educating guests, Judy’s tours also raise money to help restore buildings in the neighbourhood. Judy is a generous supporter of the community. Judy strives to educate people in an entertaining way while helping and supporting local businesses.
One thing about the tour company that separates it from others is the fact that it’s the only one with permission to bring guests inside several of Chinatown’s heritage buildings. As you can imagine, this exclusive opportunity makes for very interesting tours.
Historical Chinatown Tours operates throughout the year. Unlike other similar companies, however, there isn’t a schedule of tours or an online booking system available. Instead, people interested in taking a tour just have to send an email to the tour operator. In other words, Judy and Historical Chinatown Tours offer tours by request.
Chinatown Tour Options
Some experiences that Historical Chinatown Tours offers are listed and described below. As you’ll notice, some tours last longer than others. Also, some tours are put together for specific audiences while others are made for the general public.
Chinatown Walk, Historic Talk & Dim Sum
The first type of tour available at Historical Chinatown Tours combines a few different activities into one. The Chinatown Walk, Historic Talk and Dim Sum experience is unlike any other. In this tour you’ll enjoy a Cantonese lunch and learn a lot about Chinese foods. You’ll also check out a few businesses in the area and get an exclusive look inside some interesting heritage buildings.
This tour costs $125 per person and lasts for about 3 hours.
Masterclass Dumplings is not exactly a tour. Instead, it’s a cooking class in which participants learn to make Chinese dumplings. You can enjoy a session online or in-person depending on which style of teaching you prefer.
This event includes a sneak peak tour of the neighbourhood before starting the dumpling lesson which Judy teaches herself. Not only is she a professional tour guide, but she’s also a dumpling expert!
Pro-D Day Tours
On Professional Development Days, Historical Chinatown Tours offers a tour intended for teachers. These are specifically designed for folks in the educational field.
On these tours teachers who attend learn a lot about Chinatown’s history and the buildings that are currently there. Teachers receive resources to keep, and they can use those materials to conduct their own tours if they choose to bring their classes to Chinatown.
This type of tour lasts for 2 and a half hours and costs $75 per person.
Other Tours and Offerings
Judy leads other tours in addition to the ones mentioned above. She even hosts dumpling parties where she can provide a cooking lesson in your own home or place of business!
With her guided tours of Chinatown, Judy can customize the tour to suit the needs of her guests. You can talk to her before your tour and request to see specific things or visit a certain kind of restaurant. You can also ask her what she recommends.
Based on your preferences, Judy can customize the tour plan to suit the wants and needs of your group. You can also choose the time, date and length of time for the tour (which is typically between one and two hours).
Historical Chinatown Tours Video
To give you a really good idea of what a tour with Judy Lam Maxwell is like, check out the video below. Judy customizes her tours, so one tour can be very different from another depending on the wants and interests of her guests. This video though shows what a fairly typical tour looks like. As you’ll see, the tour we videoed began with introductions in a coffee shop and included a delicious Chinese-food lunch near the end.
This video was taken in June of 2022. The tour was really interesting and thoroughly enjoyed by everyone! The family featured in the video was visiting from the United States and very kindly let us include them in the filming!
As you’ll see in the video, the tour took us all around Vancouver’s Chinatown, from east of Main Street to the Millennium Gate. We got to see things from outside, but also inside places too that the average person would never get to see. We all learned so much and had a wonderful time!
Who is Chinatowngirl?
Judy Lam Maxwell is not only the tour guide at Historical Chinatown Tours, but she is also the owner and operator too. Judy is very knowledgeable about Vancouver’s Chinatown, Chinese history in Canada and the Chinese diaspora. In fact, she’s a specialist in Chinatowns around the world!
Judy studied at the University of British Columbia where she obtained her Masters of Arts in History and a Certificate from the Faculty of Education. She is very active in the local community.
Judy is half-Chinese and half-European Canadian. She is a third-generation Vancouverite on her father’s (Maxwell) side and first-generation on her mother’s Chinese (Lam) side.
Judy has been an active board member of different organizations in Vancouver’s Chinatown. These include the Chinatown Society Heritage Buildings Association, Vancouver Chinatown Revitalization Committee, and Vancouver Chinatown Heritage Committee. She has also been actively involved with the Chinese American Forum, Organization of Chinese Americans and the BC Historical Federation.
In addition to the above, Judy is a Director and Ambassador for the Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society (VAHMS). She is a very active and knowledgeable lady!
Judy is also an avid cook, writer and teacher. All of these skills are useful on the job, as Judy provides interesting insight and sometimes even meals on her tours.
To book a tour, or if you have questions, you can e-mail Judy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about Judy and her tours, visit the Historical Chinatown Tours website.
Other articles that might be of interest include the following:
- Vancouver Sightseeing Tours
- Best Restaurants in Vancouver
- Vancouver’s Chinatown
- Places for History and Culture
- Chinese New Year in Vancouver
To learn about British Columbia’s other main Chinatown district, see the website Victoriasbestplaces.com.