Updated for 2020
The first living nativity was created by St. Francis of Assisi in 1223 to help explain the birth of Jesus to his followers. Throughout Europe, Central America, and South America the manger scene is a primary decoration at Christmastime. In the United States, the manger scene is often displayed in a church or as a part of a neighborhood Christmas display.
Live Nativity Scenes in Southern California
In Southern California, we also have several live nativities that take place throughout the month of December. And the good news is that they are FREE community events! Here is a comprehensive list of live, virtual, drive and walk thru nativity scenes in Southern California for your enjoyment!
Live Nativity Scenes in Orange County
Drive or Walk Thru Nativity, First Christian Church, Huntington Beach
December 9, 10, & 11 starting @ 6:00 pm
The Live Nativity at First Christian Church of Huntington Beach has been a staple in the community for more than 50 years. Actors and live animals tell the story of Jesus’ birth through 9 different scenes. Whether you’re driving through or walking, the true magic of Christmas will be remembered as you celebrate with friends and family. Come for the Live Nativity and stay for Christmas Carols in the Chapel, a photo opportunity for the family and crafts for the kids. Free admission.
December 11 & 12 @ 5:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Christmas BLVD is a popular family-oriented Christmas experience that is returning to North Orange County this year! You’re invited to a drive thru celebration of Christmas. So, pack up the car and head over to Fullerton Free to make some new Christmas memories with your family. You will stay in your car for this drive through our main campus all the while experiencing fun Christmas movie characters, Santa’s workshop, a light show, and the amazing story of the incredible birth of Jesus.
Walk Thru A Night in Bethlehem, Liberty Baptist Church, Newport Beach (returning in 2021!)
Experience the sights, sounds and excitement of the very first Christmas! Bring friends and family to experience a first-century marketplace. Meet Bethlehem’s citizens. Create interesting crafts. Enjoy delicious treats. And receive a free family photo as a memento of your evening in Bethlehem! See a wonderful promo video here. Free admission.
Living Nativity, Village Bible Church, Garden Grove
December 12 & 13 @ 4:00 – 9:00 pm
Join us on a tour through Bethlehem as we celebrate the birth of Jesus. Your self-guided tour will walk through the streets of Bethlehem ending up at the nativity. There will be live interactions along the way that tell the Christmas story and give an idea of the setting of Christ’s birth. This is a great way to remind ourselves of the message of Christmas. Admission is free and tours will last about 20 minutes each.
The Living Nativity, The Church at Green Hills, La Habra
December 19 & 20 @ 6:00 pm, 7:00 pm & 8:00 pm
You will see the true Christmas Story come to life right before your eyes! See Mary riding on a donkey, the Wise Men riding on magnificent camels, sheep by the manger, and then enter a toy shop where toys come to life. Plus you will be treated with hot chocolate, cookies, candy sticks and more. Admission is free.
Live Nativity Show, Old World German Village, Huntington Beach (returning in 2021!)
Attend the International Celebration of Christmas, a celebration that brings together a diverse group of churches, singers & dancers for a celebration that highlights the true meaning of the holiday season. Free. Donations accepted. See a promo video here. Free admission.
Walk Thru Nativity, Crossline Community Church, Laguna Hills
December 11, 12 & 13 @ 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm
The most immersive living nativity in South Orange County! Come experience a huge cast bringing Bethlehem to life as it was 2000 years ago. Meet Mary and Joseph, The Three Wise Men, angels, shepherds, and townspeople. See live camels, sheep, donkeys and Roman Soldiers on horseback. Experience a petting zoo, cookie and craft decorating and holiday treats and hot drinks for everyone. Free admission. Advance reservations recommended to avoid long lines
Drive Thru Nativity, Mount of Olives Church, Mission Viejo
December 4 & 5 @ 6:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Experience this life-size retelling of the Christmas Story from the comfort of your car. Live actors, animals and narration through your car radio! You can also enjoy the Drive-Thru Nativity on foot. The church is also collecting non-perishable food donations at the Drive-Thru Nativity to support local families in need. Bring the whole family to this annual free event, a Mission Viejo community Christmas tradition since 1994! Free admission.
Live Nativity Scenes in Los Angeles
Drive Thru Live Nativity, CVC Church, La Crescenta
December 13 @ 3:00 pm – 6:00 pm
Experience a live drive thru of the Nativity at the recreated town of Jesus’ birth! Come to explore Bethlehem, see the live Nativity, hear songs of Christmas and much, much more. It will be a memorable time for all; kids, family members, friends and coworkers to help get into the Christmas spirit. See a live video of the live Nativity here! Free admission.
Live Drive Thru Nativity, Evangelical Free Church, Diamond Bar
December 11, 12, 18 & 19 @ 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Our parking lot will transform into Biblical- times to share the Luke Christmas story with the birth of Baby Jesus. Visitors riding inside their own cars will visit several villages, with familiar characters, strolling minstrels & even live animals. Fun activities and special Christmas snacks will be provided leading up to this sweet story of God’s Big Plans, not just for the life of Baby Jesus, but for everyone who accepts them! This socially-distant experience will be possible by guests staying masked and keeping in their cars while on campus.
Journey to Bethlehem, Purpose Church, Pomona
December 13 @ 6:00-8:00 pm and December 8 & 9 @ 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Journey to Bethlehem at Purpose Church is a living history event that will give you a glimpse into what life may have been like over 2000 years ago. Sign the census, avoid the Roman soldiers, interact with the potter, weaver, carpenter, and other merchants. Spend some shekels, visit the animals, and make your way under the giant star to discover the new born King, baby Jesus. Parking is free. Food is available for purchase at our Bethlehem café. Enjoy some lentil stew, beef kabobs and citrus punch to experience a taste of the time. Tickets available for purchase online. Free for children 12 and under.
Live Walk Thru Nativity, Portraits of the Prince of Peace Pageant, Long Beach (returning in 2021!)
The “Portraits of the Prince of Peace” Pageant has been a Long Beach tradition for over 40 years. Through the combined efforts of 6 different Churches the story of the birth of Jesus is presented in a fun filled way with music, live actors, beautifully decorated murals, as well as, and live animals.
The Pageant starts on the South East Corner of Bellflower & Wardlow, in front of St. Cornelius. Brought to you by St. Luke’s Lutheran, University Baptist, St. Cornelius Roman Catholic, Long Beach Christian Reformed and Calvary Chapel Long Beach. Free parking is available at all the churches. Free admission.
Journey to the Manger, Landmark Christian Church, Diamond Bar
December 10 & 11 @ 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Journey to the Manger is a live walk through of the Christmas story, full of animals, actors, and interactivity. This walk-through Christmas Event is for the whole family. Your own journey should be in groups of 5-10 people and only take about 30 minutes. Also, come and enjoy live musical performances, food and hot drinks, a petting zoo, along with the narrated story walk-through experience. Free admission.
Live Walk Thru Nativity, Granite Creek Community Church, Claremont (dates TBD)
Come experience the living nativity! The 10-scene walk-through drama recreates pivotal moments surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ, from the Angel Gabriel’s appearing to Mary, to Caesar Augustus’ devious census declaration, to the ecstatic singing of the heavenly hosts at Jesus’ birth. Elaborate set decorations, a life-sized manger, dozens of live animals, Roman soldiers, and a chance to see exotic animals and baby animals up close in our Petting Zoo!
The Living Nativity Outdoor Drama and Marketplace opens at 5:00 pm and includes outdoor fire pits, hot cocoa, food trucks, tons of vendors, and lots of unique gift ideas. Dress warmly! Outdoor bleacher seating is handicapped accessible for wheelchairs and walkers. To enhance the Nativity experience, this production is a ticketed-only event. Shows run nightly at 6:00 pm, 7:00 pm and 8:00 pm. Tickets are $5 until December 5, and then will be available at $7 each. Children under 2 years old are free.
The Live Nativity, Glendora City Hall, Glendora (returning in 2021!)
A live nativity scene on the grass lawn up at Glendora city hall. Enjoy hot cocoa, see shepherds, wise men, and manger animals all while learning about the hope that Christmas brings. Presented by Grace Church of Glendora. Free admission.
Drive Thru Nativity, Community Christian Church of The Foothills, Tujunga
December 11 & 12 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Come join the Tujunga community for two nights in the little town of Bethlehem, as you get to experience the story of Jesus’ birth! Walk or drive-thru and see Mary and Joseph’s long journey, the angel’s heavenly proclamation, and the wisemen with their gifts. See a live video of the Nativity here! Free admission.
Las Posadas, Olvera Street, Los Angeles (returning in 2021!)
Las Posadas, a nine night festival, has been a part of Olvera Street since its founding in 1930. Reenacting the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem with traditional songs, colorful costumes, and vibrant music brings one of the oldest Christmas stories to life. Free.
Live Nativity Scenes in The Inland Empire
Drive or Walk Thru Nativity Scenes, Christmas on Euclid Street, Ontario (dates TBD)
Ontario Nativity scenes include religious creches exhibited on the Euclid Avenue median in downtown. Protected by wooden shelters, the dozen Nativity scenes between D and G streets tell the story of Jesus’ birth. For 55 years, it has been a tradition for the scenes to go up in Ontario – through the help of volunteers – on the weekend before Thanksgiving and come down the first week in January.
The Living Nativity, Calvary Conference Center, Murrieta (dates TBD)
A memorable event for the entire family celebrating the true meaning of Christmas. Take a free family photo with one of the live performers or animals.
Live Nativity Scenes in San Diego
Live Walk Thru Nativity, Faith Chapel, Spring Valley (dates TBD)
This Christmas season come to see the Christmas story as told in the Gospel of Luke live on stage. Encounter Mary and Joseph as they travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem, witness the announcement of the birth of the Christ child, learn of the great census and visit with citizens of Bethlehem as they experience the extraordinary event that changed the world forever, the birth of the Messiah. See a great promo video here.
A ticket will be required for each performance. There is no charge for any performance, but they do encourage donations of $1 per ticket. You must be able to show your printed or phone-based ticket to enter Bethlehem Story.
Bethlehem Drive, First United Methodist of Escondido, Escondido (Virtual)
December 4, 5 & 6 @ 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Free to the public, this virtual nativity scene experience invites visitors to watch a re-creation of the traditional birthplace of Jesus from the comfort of their own homes. The period is set in the time of Caesar Augustus, the Roman Emperor who decreed that a census be taken and set in motion the event we now celebrate as Christmas: the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem.
Families will be able to visit the village and view and listen to its inhabitants. As you slowly go through the village, you’ll encounter Roman centurions and soldiers, shops, tradesmen, the synagogue, and other key landmarks, culminating in the inn and the manger.
Julian Living Nativity, The Cider Mill, Julian (date TBD)
A living Nativity where shepherds and kings pay homage to the Christ child silently recalls the first Christmas on a different hillside, on the other side of the world, centuries ago. Local churches take turns putting it on. Free admission.
Live Nativity Scenes in Ventura County
Live Nativity, The Old Mission San Buena Ventura, Ventura (all month long)
A live Nativity sponsored by Holy Cross School is held on the front steps of the Mission.
Drive Thru Nativity, Faith Lutheran Church, Moorpark (dates TBD)
December 18 @ 7:00 pm
The birth of Jesus Christ will be depicted in different Bible scenes. This event will be broadcasted live virtually this year. Call the church for more details.
Happy Holiday Field Tripping!