Creepy Carnival Tents for an Outdoor Halloween Theme

Designer Michelle Buckley shares her ideas for creating an unusual experience this Halloween: Turn your front yard into a creepy sideshow spectacle using pop-up tents to mimic the feel of a travelling carnival.

Materials and Tools:



Faux carnival tents offer a distinctive backdrop in this bid for the neighborhood's spookiest yard.

Faux carnival tents offer a distinctive backdrop in this bid for the neighborhood's spookiest yard.

pop-up canopy tents with fabric sidewalls
9 red table runners (86" X 18")
5 yards red rayon fabric
5 yards mustard yellow rayon fabric
1 box large safety pins
heavy duty double stick tape
strong scissors
tall ladder
zip ties (optional)
globe light strings and paper lanterns (optional)


  1. Assemble the pop-up canopies. This type of canopy tent can be rented at most rental centers. Most are fairly simple to assemble, but more than one person is needed for the set-up. Attach the fabric sidewalls with the tabs provided. If you feel that the tent needs extra support, use zip-ties to secure the sidewalls.
  2. Important: If windy weather is expected, you'll also need tent stakes and strong nylon cord. Using a hammer, stake the corners of your tent securely, so that it won't lift off the ground or tip over in a heavy wind.
  3. Once each canopy is assembled, attach the red table runners to create a colorful accent. Use large safety pins to attach up to three runners to each side of the tent.
  4. Next, create tassels to decorate the top of the tent. Begin by cutting two-foot strips out of the red rayon fabric. Cut a small tear in the end of the strip, then grab both sides firmly and tear it lengthwise. Once you have a number of strips, then rip them into four-inch wide strips using the same method. Once you have about 15 strips, gather them into bunch so they are lined up evenly and tie them at one end to create the tassel. Attach your tassels to the top of the tent using the large safety pins.
    For a windblown look, separate some of the tassels and arrange them using double stick tape on the back to secure them.
  5. Create a dramatic entrance to the front of the tent using the mustard-colored rayon fabric. Tear the fabric to create curtains and attach on either side. Tie one end of each piece of fabric to the center of the bar running across the top of the open side of the tent. Drape it over to each side, creating a curtain effect, and tie it with some of the remaining strips of red fabric. Allow extra fabric to fall to the floor. Get creative. The more crafty and homemade the tassels and curtains look, the more authentic your traveling carnival will appear.
  6. Now for the fun: Populate the tents with carnival characters, sideshow oddities and creepy anomalies. Or create a candy-filled haven for your trick-or-treaters. If you want the tent to look extra spooky inside, line the interior with black fabric. Paper lanterns suspended in trees, strings of globe lights and hand-painted signs add the finishing touches to create a distinctive carnival atmosphere that springs to life as soon as the sun goes down.
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