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carnival theme party ideas

By an Award-Winning Professional Party Planner

Get ideas for birthday party invitations, party food, decorations, games, and party supplies

About this Site

If this is the first page you've landed on, let me give you a quick introduction. I'm Matt James, a professional party planner, and the purpose of this site is to show you the most creative way you can use regular, shop-bought party supplies that can be found in most stores. Not everyone has the craft skills of Martha Stewart or the time to spend several days with a glue gun making things from scratch. It's fine to use shop-bought decorations and supplies—as long as you choose them carefully and know the best way to put them all together. So I'll share a few simple tips and trade secrets that anyone can use to add some creative touches to your party—whatever your budget.

matt james

carnival theme party ideas

These birthday Carnival theme party ideas are inspired by the traditional travelling funfair with fairground rides, food booths, sideshows, side stalls and games (often just called a Funfair or Fairground outside of the US). I've also included one or two circus inspired ideas such as clowns, elephants and Big Tops as many people associate Circus with Carnival.

carnival theme party ideas

carnival party Invitations

Below are some suggestions for invitations to go with these carnival theme party ideas:

Matt's Tip

I think it’s important to create a big first impression, so I always try to incorporate some sort of object with the invitations—rather than just relying on a traditional printed card (see examples here). This is a little trick that’s often used by professional party planners to make invitations stand out. People just love to receive unusual invitations. It really captures their imagination and gets them excited about the party.

matt james

3d carnival party Invitations

A great way to make a big first impression with a 3D invitation would be to send out these cute 'Admit One' cookies, available from supplier 4. Just tie on a small card with all the party details printed on. Alternatively, use this printable circus ticket invitation from supplier 4 to attach to the cookie.

admit one carnival ticket cookie
carnival theme party invitation

Then send out in these cute box mailers (below right, USA only).

box mailers

Traditional carnival party Invitations

There are lots of personalized invitations for a Circus or Carnival birthday party available, such as the ones below, which will work well with these birthday ideas. See supplier's 4 and 7 for the full range.

You can embellish these further by slipping them into red and white striped popcorn bags and tying them up with string or ribbon to fit in with these Carnival theme party ideas

carnival party Invitation
carnival party Invitation
carnival party Invitation

carnival party invitations
carnival party invitations

carnival Stamps

If you want to add some extra embellishment to your carnival invitations to make them even more special, use themed postage stamps such as the ones below (more designs available).

Note: These are only available in the USA

carnival postage stamps
carnival postage stamps
carnival postage stamps
personalized postage stamps
personalized postage stamps

Just upload a photo of the birthday boy or girl dressed in a costume (select supplier 9 or 10 for best range) and the personalized stamps will be shipped to you (USA only).

kids carnival costume
kids carnival costume
kids carnival costume
kids carnival costume

carnival Party Drinks

Below are some drinks recipes to compliment these Carnival party ideas:

Matt's Tip

Always create a signature drink for your party—it’s one of the easiest things you can do to make your party unique. If your party has a theme, think about what flavors you can use in your signature drink that will convey it. Don’t forget about styling and presentation too. You could serve drinks in individual bottles or jars, add your own labels, use themed ice cubes, straws, drinks picks, or add a simple garnish. A sprig of berries or a single flower head on the rim of a glass can make a simple cocktail look really stylish.

matt james

Lemon Shake Ups

When it comes to drinks at the funfair, it's all about Lemon Shake Ups (from But if you're worried about sugar levels, you could always try this Reduced-Sugar Lemon Shake Up recipe (from The Kitchen).

Float carnival mustache ice cubes in the drinks using this mold from supplier 3.

carnival party drinks lemon shake ups
carnival mustache ice molds

Root Beer Floats

Here a quick and easy recipe for Root Beer Floats (from My Recipes). Serve them in these cute personalized party cups with each guest's name on (see supplier 4).

carnival party drinks root beer floats
carnival party cups

Hook-a-Duck Punch

This cute Rubber Ducky Bath Punch (by Cheryl at The Tidy Mom) was created for a baby shower, but you could easily re-named it 'Hook-a-Duck Punch'. Balance a fishing rod / hook on the edge of the punch bowl so people make the funfair connection.

carnival party drink hook-a-duck punch
rubber ducks

Carnival Goldfish Punch

Make any blue drink, such as this Blue Bubblegum Soda ( by Jana at Cherry Tea Cakes) and serve in mini plastic goldfish bowls (supplier 2) with straws.

Then pick up a mold to make goldfish ice cube's (supplier 3). Add a couple of drops of coloring or orange juice to the ice cubes but test them first to see how much they change the color of the drink as they melt.

carnival party drink goldfish punch
goldfish ice cubes
mini fish bowls

Popcorn Milkshakes

I started thinking about what fairground/ circus foods could be turned into drinks to go with these Carnival theme party ideas so I set about hunting for a Popcorn Milkshake recipe and came across this one (below left, by Manouschka Guerrier for Food Network). This recipe is for Popcorn Ice Cream, but she posted the picture below on her blog saying that she served them as milkshakes so I guess you just mix the ice cream with some milk in a blender to create. I'd garnish with some actual popcorn on top to make them look even cuter.

Update: I've since come accross this Cracker Jack Milkshake (below right, by Sugar and Charm) which would also work well. Just don't forget to enquire about peanut allergies in advance.

carnival party drinks popcorn milkshake
carnival party drinks popcorn milkshake

Caramel Apple Milkshakes

Caramel Apples go hand in hand with a Carnival theme party, so for something a bit different try making these Caramel Apple Milkshakes (by Lynne Laino via Dairyspot). Serve them in these big top themed party cups from supplier 4.

carnival party drink Caramel Apple Milkshakes
Carnival party cups

Cotton Candy Milkshakes

Similarly, make Cotton Candy Milkshakes with this recipe from Happy Harvest on Tablespoon. Don't forget to garnish these with some actual Cotton Candy, either wrapped around a swizzle stick or just floating on top.

Cotton Candy Milkshakes


Give regular water bottles a carnival makeover with these printable labels from supplier 4 (lots of different designs available).

carnival water bottle labels
carnival water bottle labels
carnival water bottle labels

Drinks Styling

Style any of the above drinks with carnival themed straws, such as these mustache ones (below left, from supplier 3). Alternatively, use these labels to give any drink a carnival themed look (see supplier 3).

carnival mustache straws
carnival party drinks bottle labels

Supplier 4 also has these cute carousel horse straws or these circus themed ones. There are also styling options for younger kid's parties too, such as these carnival tent sipper cups from supplier 1.

carnival party straws
circus party straws
carnival big top sipper cups

carnival party Food

Below are some of my favorite recipes to go with these Carnival birthday party ideas:


As a professional party planner, I’m lucky enough to be able to collaborate with some amazing chefs to create menus for my events. As I’m no chef myself and cannot create dishesfrom scratch, I’ve searched the web for recipes that I think would work well for this party theme. All credit goes to the talented people that have created these recipes - so please click through to their site for full details, methods, and in some cases step-by-step tutorials.

matt james

Caramel Apples / Cupcakes

There are certain foods that instantly spring to mind when you think of the Carnival: Caramel Apples, Popcorn, Cotton Candy, Corn Dogs, Churros, Hot Dogs, Funnel Cake, Elephant Ears, Donut Holes, Snow Cones, Salt Water Taffy, Watermelon etc. So, to make things a bit more special I've tried to include a few variations and twists on some of these traditional fairground foods.

Instead of serving traditional Caramel Apples, try this variation: an Apple Pie Caramel Apple ( from The Girl Who Ate Everything). Or there are these cute Caramel Apple Cupcakes (below right, from Chockylit's Cupcake Blog)

carnival party food Apple Pie Caramel Apple
carnival party food Apple Pie Caramel Apple
carnival party food Caramel Apple cupcakes

Caramel Apple Dip / S'mores

This Caramel Apple Cheesecake Dessert Dip (below left, by Fake It Frugal) looks amazing and is a great twist on the original. Alternatively, try making these Caramel Apple S'mores (below right, by Skip to my Lou).

carnival party food caramel apple dip
carnival party food caramel apple s'mores

Hot Dog Cookies / Cakes

Serve Mini Hot Dogs (below left, by Yum Sugar) using cocktail franks and biscuit dough, or for a surreal twist try these Hot Dog Cookies (below center, from Taste of Home). Alternatively, there are these Hot Dog Cakes (below right, by Sweet Cherry Pie) make from Choux Pastry Buns and Devil's Food Cake.

carnival party food mini hot dogs
carnival party food hot dog cookies
carnival party food hot dog cakes

Sliders / Burger Cupcakes

Similarly, you could make Sliders (Mini Burgers) like these (below left, from Martha Stewart) or these Brownie Burger Cupcakes (below right, by Bakerella).

brownie burger cupcakes

Carnival Cookie Cutters

There are lots of great Carnival themed cookie cutters available, such as this mustache cookie cutter (below left, from supplier 3) or this carousel horse (below right, supplier 4) which you can use to shape sandwiches (use brown bread for the mustache ones!), pizza, cookies, cheese, and fruit slices.

carnival mustache cookie cutter
carousel horse cookie cutter

More Carnival cookie cutters

There are also these popcorn, carnival tent, and 'admit one' cookie cutters available from supplier 4.

carnival popcorn cookie cutter
carnival big top cookie cutter
carnival ticket cookie cutter

Carnival Cookies

Alternatively, you can buy lots of different carnival themed cookies from supplier 4.

carnival cookies to buy
carnival cookies to buy

Carnival Cupcakes / Cake Pops

Here are a couple of cupcake recipes that I thought we're just perfect to include in these Carnival birthday party ideas. Circus Clown Cupcakes (below center) and Popcorn Cupcakes (below left) both from Disney Family Fun. Alternatively, there are these cute clown cake pops you can buy (below right, from supplier 4).

carnival popcorn cupcakes
clown cupcakes
clown cake pops to buy

Carnival Cupcake Toppers

Alternatively, just use carnival themed cupcake toppers, such as these from supplier 4, on regular cupcakes.

carnival big top cupcake toppers
carousel horse cupcake toppers
carnival mustache cupcake toppers

Funnel Cakes / Churros / Elephant Ears

Here are some great recipes for Funnel Cakes (below right, from Martha Stewart), Churros (below center, also by Martha Stewart) and Elephant Ears (below right, from Taste of Home). Alternatively, for a quick and easy option you can pick up Funnel Cake Mix and Kits here

carnival party food funnel cakes
carnival party food churros
carnival party food elephant ears

Carnival Appliances

If you want to make some of your favorite Carnival foods at home you can pick up various small appliances fairly cheaply—around $30-$40— from supplier 3, such as snow cone machines, hot dog rollers, slushee machines, s'mores makers, donut hole makers, corn dog makers, and popcorn machines - all of which are perfect for these Carnival theme party ideas.

hot dog roller
slushee machine
s'mores maker
popcorn machine

cotton candy machine
snow cone machine

Watermelon Popsicles / Jello Shots

Watermelon is often served at the funfair, but if you want to try something a little different for your party make these Minted Watermelon Popsicles (below left by Pip and Ebby) or these Watermelon Lime Jello Shots (below right, by Erica Sweet Tooth)

minted watermelon popsicle
watermelon lime jello shots

Ice Cream Cupcakes / Root Beer Ice Cream

Instead of serving regular ice cream cones try making these Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes (below left, by Stephanie Gallagher on, or these Root Beer Float Ice Cream Sandwiches (below right, from Hungry Happenings).

ice cream cone cupcakes
root beer float ice cream sandwiches


There's so many different things you can do with Popcorn to make your Carnival theme party ideas a little more unusual. Why not set up a Popcorn bar with lots of different flavors and toppings (like this White Chocolate Drizzle, below left by Picky Palate) that people can help themselves to.

Or just pick up this variety pack of gourmet popcorn (below center, USA only) with includes flavors such as caramel, cheddar cheese, kettle corn, and dark and white chocolate striped.

Alternatively make this Popcorn Fudge (below right, from Raspberricupcakes)

white chocolate popcorn drizzle
gourmet popcorn
popcorn fudge

Carnival Candy

There's also lots of Carnival candy that you can buy to fill out the dessert table or use as favors, including this gummi popcorn (below left), red apple candy lollipops (below center), salt water taffy, cotton candy, watermelon wedge lollipops, buttered popcorn jelly beans (below right) and lots more. See supplier 3.

gummi popcorn
red apply candy lollipops
popcorn jellybeans

More Carnival Candy

Alternatively, you can buy individual bags of cotton candy, mustache lollipops, or this cute gumball machine to complete your dessert table. Also from supplier 3.

carnival mustache lollipop
cotton candy
gumball machine

carnival themed candy wrappers

These printable carnival themed candy bar wrappers and lollipop stickers are a great way to personalized candy on your dessert table. Both available from supplier 4. Or Supplier 1 also sells candy by the color, so you can give your dessert table a red and white carnival theme.

carnival candy wrapper printables
carnival lollipop stickers
red and white candy

French Fries / Corn on the Cob Cakes

If you're want to serve French Fries for your party, make home-made paper cones by printing off pictures of old fashioned Carnival posters from the web. Or make batch of the individual french fries in this recipe made from pound cake (by Karen Tack at Parenting), serve in a basket as show and see how long it takes people to notice that they're sweet.

Finally, I had to include this next recipe in these birthday party tips. You could serve regular corn on the cob as they do at the fair, but these Corn on the Cob Cupcakes (below, by Karen Tack via Martha Stewart) look a whole lot more fun.

french fries pound cake
corn on the cob cupcakes

carnival Birthday Cake

Whether you're making a birthday cake from scratch or just decorating it, below are some suggestions to go with these carnival theme party ideas:

Carnival Edible Images

There are only a handful of edible images available for a carnival theme, such as the one below left from supplier 3. If you want a personalized edible image, they tend to be more circus themed, such as the one below right from supplier 4 (other designs available).

carnival party edible cake image
carnival party edible cake image

carnival cake toppers

Alternatively, there are some nice non-edible options available which can be personalized, such as the ones below from supplier 4.

carnival cake toppers
carnival cake toppers

Dessert Table Styling

Below are styling and decoration tips to create a themed buffet / dessert table to go with these carnival theme party ideas.

Matt's Tip

I always think it’s a good idea to concentrate the majority of your decorations around a buffet/dessert table. This will create a focal point in the room. Decorations often have to compete with existing room decor so they can get a bit lost if spread too thinly. I think you’re far better off creating one really well themed feature wall that everyone’s eye will be drawn to. You can then use a few general decorations around the rest of the room to tie everything together.

matt james

Carnival Side Stall Dessert Table

Here's one way you could dress a buffet / dessert table to go with these carnival theme party ideas. Read below for step by step instructions for how to create this look.

carnival theme dessert table

Canopy and Table

If you have a gazebo or pop up canopy at home then use this to provide a roof over your Carnival dessert table. You can make this look more Carnival-like by draping with red and white striped fabric by the yard (below left, from supplier 3) or cut sections out of super strong (it stands up without supports) red and white striped corrugated decorating paper available from supplier 2) to lay on top or enclose the sides of your canopy.

Cover your table with a red and white striped tablecover or wrap this striped tableskirt (below right) around a solid color tablecover. Both are available from supplier 2. Alternatively, for a more structured look use the red and white striped corrugated decorating paper mentioned above, from supplier 2.

Dress the table top by scattering around a few objects and props that you'd find at Carnival side stalls, ex a row of three coconuts balanced on soda bottles, hoops, goldfish etc.

carnival fabric by the yard
carnival tablecover
carnival table skirt

Carnival Big Top Tents

If you dont already have a canopy, you could use this Big Top canopy tent (from supplier 3) to go with these Carnival theme party ideas. Alternatively, this circus play tent is great value at less than $20 (see supplier 3)

carnival big top canopy tent
carnival big top canopy tent
carnival big top play tent

Big Top Tent / Props

You could try this Big Top Tabletop tent from supplier 3 or 8) or, if you have a bigger budget, there's also this 7ft x 9ft carnival booth standee prop which you could set up over the dessert table. See supplier 2 or 3.

big top tabletop tent
carnival booth standee
carnival booth standee

Side Stall Dressing

If you've got a shelving unit or tall dresser, position it behind the dessert table. Otherwise just position the dessert table a few feet in front of an empty wall so that you can hang various props on it to resemble the back wall of a Carnival side stall (see illustration above). Some examples are:

  • Stack pyramids of tin cans along the back wall
  • Similarly, you could create your own coconut shy
  • Line up a row of rubber ducks and targets to represent the duck shooting range
  • Draw some large clown faces and cut out their mouths to represent the 'Toss the beanbag in the Clown's Mouth' side stall

These are really just for decoration to make your dessert table look like an authentic Carnival side stall, so don't worry too much about making them practical. Alternatively, you can buy some cheap Carnival games from suppliers 1 or 5 such as these inflatable ring toss / bean bag toss games (below) to use as part of your dessert table decorations - then, later in your party you can use them as games.

rubber duck
carnival bean bag toss game
carnival ring toss game

Carnival Signs

Next, hang a few bags of cotton candy or plush toys and other Carnival style prizes down from the roof of your canopy or attached to the side poles (see illustration above). If you have a chalkboard, add text advertising hot dogs, funnel cake, and cotton candy etc (see illustration above) or hang a string of lights accross the front.

You could also make some simple homemade signs to hang inside the side stall that say general things like 'Score Over 8 to Win', '5 Tries for $3', 'Knock 3 Ducks Off to Win a Prize', 'No Leaning' etc, to make your Carnival decorations even more authentic. Alternatively, you can buy these carnival hanging decorations from supplier 3, or these printable vintage style signs from supplier 4.

carnival cotton candy
carnival signs
carnival signs

carnival Banners

Above the dessert table hang a ready made carnival themed banner, such as these below from supplier 3.

carnival banner
carnival banner

Alternatively, there are lots of different personalized banners available that fit with these Carnival theme party ideas, such as these ones below from suppliers 1 and 2.

carnival personalized banner
carnival personalized banner
carnival personalized banner
carnival personalized banner

Carnival Banners, Bunting, and Fringes

Mix in a few pennant banners or use this Carnival decorating kit (below right) which includes a selection of banners, bunting, and fringes. See supplier 2.

pennant banners
Carnival Banners, Bunting, and Fringes

Carnival cut outs

Finish the display with these cute Carnival cut outs. This big top directional sign from suppliers 3, 8, or 6) stands approx 5ft tall so will make a big impression and is great value at only $20. Or use the Carnival barker stand up from supplier 2 which is also over 5ft tall. You can really bring your carnival dessert table to life with this battery operated carnival sound chip for around $5. It plays authentic carnival sounds on a 20 second loop. See supplier 2.

carnival signs
carnival barker standee cutout prop
carnival sound effects

Alternative Carnival Dessert Table

If you don't want to invest in a tabletop canopy or big top tent for your dessert table, below is an alternative dessert table which uses some of the same decorations.

carnival theme party dessert table

Dessert Table Decorations

To make this option, use the red and white striped corrugated decorating paper mentioned earlier, from supplier 2, to make a backdrop, then use a solid color tablecover such as red (using a red & white striped tablecover as well as the backdrop will look too 'busy'). Apply Carnival bunting along the front of the table, hang a red and white Carnival banner above, and use a 3ft tall popcorn balloon as a centerpiece. See suppliers 2 or 3.

If you're budget doesn't allow you to use the barker / directional sign cut outs for your carnival theme party, replace these with tall bunches of balloons either side of the dessert table.

carnival bunting
carnival banner
carnival popcorn balloon

Carnival Party Backdrop

Another way to create a backdrop for your dessert table is to use this carnival backrop banner from supplier 3, which measures 9ft x 6ft.

carnival backdrop

Printable Carnival Backdrop

Alternatively, you could use this downloadable carnival backdrop artwork from supplier 4 and take it to a local print shop yourself.

printable carnival backdrop
printable carnival backdrop

Food Styling & Presentation

Below are some food styling and presentation tips to go with these carnival theme party ideas.

Carnival Food Labels

Use carnival themed food labels, such as the ones below from supplier 4, to identify different treats on a buffet / dessert table.

carnival party food labels
carnival party food labels
carnival party food labels

carnival Stall Stands

These cardboard street stall stands are a really cute way to display food on a dessert / buffet table. There's a hot dog stand and this cute ice cream truck, both from supplier 3.

cardboard carnival stall treat stand
cardboard carnival stall treat stand hot dogs
cardboard carnival stall treat stand popcorn

Carnival Treat Stands

The same 'street stalls' range also does these cute sweet shop display stands for candy (see supplier 3). Alternatively, there's also this carnival treat stand from supplier 4.

carnival treat stand
carnival treat stand
carnival treat stand

carnival snack servers

Use these carnival snack servers (below right) or these hot dog / popcorn / peanut bags to give your dessert / buffet table an authentic feel. Both from supplier 3.

carnival food bags
carnival snack servers

Personalized Popcorn Boxes / Bags

Alternatively, you can get personalized popcorn boxes and peanut bags, such as these from supplier 4.

personalized popcorn boxes
personalized popcorn bags
personalized popcorn box

Popcorn Cart Treat Boxes

There are also these cute personalized popcorn cart boxes from supplier 4.

personalized popcorn cart treat box
personalized popcorn cart treat box

carnival Favor Boxes

Alternatively, use these individual circus tent and carousel favor boxes (see supplier 4) to display cupcakes or candy apples on your dessert table.

Big Top Favor Boxes
carousel Favor Boxes

Cupcake Stand / Claw Machine

This ferris wheel cake stand (see supplier 3) is a cute way to display cupcakes on a dessert table, and kid's will love this Candy Grabber machine from supplier 3 just like the claw machine at the Carnival. Fill it with candies and treats and put it on your desset table.

carnival ferris weheel cupcake stand
candy grabber carnival claw machine

carnival buffet cooler

This Carnival themed inflatable buffet cooler from supplier 3 is a cheap and easy way to set up a drinks table outside while keeping everything nicely chilled.

Carnival themed inflatable buffet cooler

Table Styling

Below are some suggestions for how to style and decorate the dining table in keeping with these carnival theme party ideas:

Matt's Tip

If it’s a kid’s party, don’t feel as if you have to shy away from using character-branded tableware. I see a lot of kid’s parties that are so immaculately styled they look more like adult parties. It’s obvious the parents have designed it for themselves, rather than the child. If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a professional party planner it’s to design the party for your audience, not yourself. The reality is kids want their favorite characters to have a strong presence at their party; they don’t see this as too commercial, for them it’s just fun. Obviously, it’s important to get the balance right, so don’t go overboard. Character plates and cups work well if combined with a solid color table cover and napkins.

matt james

Table Styling

When it comes to dressing the dining table, I suggest you stick to a few primary colors for your decorations. Red and White, Red and Yellow, or Blue and White stripes are the most easily recognisable color combinations for a carnival theme party. So you might want to use a a red and white striped table cover (see above), or just use a solid color tablecover and add some Carnival bunting around the edge of the table (as shown below).

carnival table cover
carnival bunting
carnival bunting and banners

carnival party plates

These are lots of different carnival themed party tableware available, such as these below left from supplier 4, below center from supplier 1, and below right from supplier 6.

carnival party plates
carnival party plates
carnival party plates

Personalized carnival party plates

Alternatively, there are some nice personalized paper plates available, such as the ones below from supplier 7 (more designs available).

Personalized carnival party plates
Personalized carnival party plates
Personalized carnival party plates

Carnival Centerpiece

For a centerpiece create your own Coconut Shy running down the middle of the table by gluing them to milk bottles. Or apply the same principle to the Hoopla and have a series of small soft toys raised up on small blocks with hoops half placed over them.

carnival coconut shy

3d Cardstock letters

Alternatively, you could use these carnival themed 3D cardstock letters from supplier 4 to spell out the birthday boy or girl's name.

carnival themed 3D cardstock letters
carnival themed 3D cardstock letters

carnival centerpieces

There are also plenty of personalized carnival centerpieces, such as the one below, available from supplier 4. Or you could use popcorn boxes as vases and arrange yellow and white flowers in them to look like popcorn.

carnival centerpiece
carnival centerpiece
carnival floral centerpiece

Carnival Placemats

Create home-made placemats by gluing classic Carnival tickets from supplier 3 together onto a large rectangle of cardstock. Alternatively,you can have these personalized Carnival / Circus placements made, from supplier 1.

carnival placemats
carnival placemats
carnival tickets

Chairs / Place settings

Tie balloons to the back of each chair, or use these big top chair covers from supplier 2, then put one of these paper Carnival / Circus masks from supplier 1 at each place.

You could also create caramel apple place settings. Tie caramel apples up in clear cellophane and place one at each setting with the guest's name tied onto the stick like a flag. Alternatively you could do the same with a stick of cotton candy (stand these up in shot glasses).

carnival chair covers
carnival chair covers
carnival paper masks
Don't Forget

You can keep up with my latest ideas if you ‘Like’ me on Facebook or follow me on Pinterest. This is where I post discount coupons, special offers, new trends, inspirational ideas, recipes, and other fantastic finds.

Click here to check out my Facebook page or follow my boards on Pinterest.

matt james

carnival party Decorations

Below are tips and recommendations for general decorations to go with these carnival theme party ideas:


Always start your party decorations outside so there's a bit of a build up to the entrance. There's nothing worse for your guests than arriving at a bare front door. For a Carnival theme party you could just have bunches of balloons starting along the pavement and leading guests up your drive to the front door, a personalized yard sign (below right,from supplier 4) or this carnival door banner (below left, from supplier 3).

Alternatively you could chalk the pavement, hang a sign saying 'Carnival This Way', or make you own fake Carnival posters and position them along the route to your party.

carnival door banner
personalized carnival yard sign

Human Theming

It's great to have someone great people at the door, so see if you can, get a sibling or other family member to dress up in a Carnival costume (ex, Circus Clown, Strong Man, Fortune Teller etc). See supplier 9 and 10 for best range of costumes.

adult clown costumes
carnival barker costume adult
carnival strong man costume adult

custom life size standee

Alternatively, you can have a life-size cut out of your child dressed in a costume to put at the end of your drive or outside your front door for under $25. These are particulary fun when paired with a motion-activated voice recorder for around $10. Simply pre-record your own 10 second welcome message and it automatically plays as guests walk past the cut out of your child. Select supplier 2 for more info on both these items.

custom life size standee
kids carnival strong man costume
kids circus elephant costume

clown airwalker balloon

Another option is to tie a Circus clown shaped Airwalker balloon see supplier 1 or 3 holding a bunch of balloons to the front door to greet people. The Airwalker balloon itself is 4ft tall, so once you tie some other balloons in it's hand it will make quite an impressive display.

clown airwalker balloon

carnival concession stands

These ticket booth, candy shoppe, and lemonade cardboard stands from supplier 3 or 6 are a good way to create little display areas. Or enlist a brother or sister to man the ticket booth and greet guests at the main entrance.

canival ticket booth
carnival candy stand
carnival lemonade stand

carnival balloons

Mix some of these themed balloons from supplier 3 in with regular ones.

carnival popcorn balloon
carnival mustache balloon
carnival strong man balloon

Vintage Carnival Posters

Use vintage carnival posters, such as the ones below from supplier 7, to decorate.

vintage carnival posters
vintage carnival posters
vintage carnival posters

Carnival Props

If your budget permits there are some really great Carnival cutouts from supplier 2 such as ticket booths, fortune tellers, ferris wheels, and even concession stands.

carnival ticket booth prop
carnival fortune teller prop
carnival concessions stand prop

carnival ticket curtains

Pick up a roll of Carnival tickets and turn these into homemade curtains to hang over door frames. Just stick them onto long strips of string or ribbon, each one an inch or so apart, then hang a series of strips together to create a curtain of tickets. These can also be used to create cheap abstract backdrops to decorate large areas / empty walls.

carnival tickets

carnival music

Music is an integral party of creating a Carnival atmosphere, so check out the CD/MP3 'Mechanical Marches: The Marenghi Fairground Organ' which contains lots of classic Carnival music. Leave it on repeat to give these Carnival theme party ideas an authentic soundtrack.

carnival music

Carnival Party Favors

These fish in a bag soaps would make cute party favors, or perhaps these personalized cotton candy cones, both from supplier 4.

carnival party favors goldfish soap
personalized cotton candy

Alternatively, fill these popcorn and cotton candy favor boxes (see supplier 4) with candy or carnival themed novelties from supplier 5.

popcorn cart favor boxes
cotton candy favor boxes

carnival party Costumes

There are lots of cute costumes available to go with these Circus / Carnival theme party ideas so let the birthday boy / girl stand out at their own party by getting dressed up. See supplier's 9 and 10 for biggest range.

I always think its a good ideas for one or two adults to dress up in costume too as this provides some 'human theming' and really brings these Carnival theme party ideas to life. So try to persaude at least one parent to dress up. Having a Strongman, Clown, or Circus ringleader greet guests as they arrive will make a big first impression.

kids carnival costume
kids carnival costume
kids carnival costume
kids carnival costume

carnival party Games

See my separate page of Circus / Carnival Party Games for a list of games and activities to go with these birthday party ideas.

carnival party games
carnival party games
carnival party games

Thank You Cards

Don't forget to follow up after the party with a thank you card. Supplier 4 has some nice carnival themed ones, including some printables.

carnival thank you cards
carnival thank you notes

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Many thanks


carnival theme party ideas

About Matt James

is a professional event planner and owner of event agency Left Field Productions, which has produced events for Elton John, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kevin Spacey, Stella McCartney, David LaChapelle, John Waters, and Elvis Costello & Diana Krall. Since 2004, Left Field Productions has won 30 industry awards for excellence including Production Company of the Year.

matt james


  • carnival theme party ideas

    by an award-winning professional party planner