Sure, Universal Studios has “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter,” but Ballard is home to the next best thing – Diagon Alley – at least until the end of the year. Dubbed by some as “the coolest dad ever,” Jon Chambers has built a replica of the fictional shopping district found in the Harry Potter books (in his own driveway!) and is inviting everyone to see it for themselves. If you’ve got a crew of Potter fans, bundle up your Muggles and read on for the magical deets.

photo: John Chambers

The Inspiration Behind the Alley
Located on a quiet street in Ballard, Chambers (a former tech exec and dad) said that up until now, his family didn’t get many, if any, treat-or-treaters on their doorstep, so he wanted to create something that would entice them to drop by. Well, guess what? It worked. Thousands of people have visited Chambers’ walk-through replica of Diagon Alley since its debut on Halloween.

photo: Jeffrey Totey

The Wizarding Hub
Located across the street from Whittier Elementary School, it’s amazing how much of the Harry Potter world is crammed into Chambers’ driveway. Facades include a quidditch supply shop, Flourish and Blotts Bookseller and Ollivander’s, “Makers of Fine Wands since 382 B.C.” And Chambers isn’t finished. Soon, he’ll be adding two play structures: The Leaky Cauldron and Greengots Bank. And both will be auctioned off for Whittier’s PTA auction.

Don’t Forget Your Camera! 
The exhibit is full of photos ops starting at the entrance where guests can appear in a “Have you seen this wizard?” wanted poster that reads underneath, “Approach with extreme caution! Do not attempt to use magic against this wizard!” Follow the owl poised on top of the broken brick wall and you’ll find Ollivander’s on the left and more wanted posters on the right. The street is lined with bottles of potions, candles, broomsticks and lots of books.

photo: Jeffrey Totey

Details, Details & More Details! 
The attention to detail is incredible. Many of the buildings have crocked corners and bent drainpipes. Every shop has amazing singage. And during the day, the place is bright and cheery, but come back at night for a different, more mysterious scene.

All for a Good Cause
As you can imagine, building such a spectacle took a lot of time, energy and money. The majority of the street came together in just two weeks with the help of 50 volunteers who built, painted and searched high and low for the perfect decor. A local children’s book illustrator filled in the windows and Chambers himself left his job for the project. But there was another important reason that gave Chambers inspiration: his daughters.

photo: Jon Chambers

“My wife worked with a gentleman, the CEO of one of the companies that my wife’s company invested in and he passed away [from pancreatic cancer] on October 18th [2017] and my daughters were really upset by that and were concerned why there wasn’t a cure for this. So really, it was their choice,” says Chambers. “As we’ve started this project, we were looking for something to donate the proceeds to. We knew that there was going to be crowds here. We didn’t’ know that it would be this crazy, but we figured we’d turn this thing into a beacon of hope for a good cause.”

It is estimated that 3,000 people crossed through the broken brick wall to visit the site during Diagon Alley’s first two days. And during those first 24-hours, Chambers raised a whopping $3,000 for pancreatic cancer research. Fortunately, Chamber’s neighbors have been happy with all of the attention and have told the family that for next year, they want “in” on whatever Chambers has in mind – which will most likely be themed around Star Wars.

photo: Jeffrey Totey

What’s Next?
So, what do you do with a mythical shopping district once the year is over? Turns out, the entire set will be donated to Camp Korey to live on and Chambers himself will go back to work. When asked what would happen if someone came up to him and wanted to steal him away to work on similar projects, he said, “Oh, I’d be totally open to that. If it’s in line with my philosophies and what I want to do, then yeah, totally. I would be interested.”

The crowds have died down a bit, so now would be a great time to gather your Muggles and plan a visit Diagon Alley yourself. The festive space will be open through New Years Eve. Plus, you won’t want to miss the special “Dumbledore Santa Claus” event to be held on December 2 and 3. “The forecast is snow for sure,” says Chambers. “Fake or not.” He also also says that actors will be on hand for interaction and photo ops and maybe a food truck of two, too.

photo: Jeffrey Totey

Diagon Alley
7514 13th Ave. N.W.
Seattle, Wa 98117
Online: diagonalleyproject.com

Dates: Now through Dec. 31, 2017
Hours: Mon.-Fri., 2 p.m.-7 p.m.; Sat.-Sun. 10 a.m.-8 p.m.

Have you visited this Diagon Alley replica? Plan to visit soon? What did you think? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!

— Jeffrey Totey