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.
In Southern California, we also have several drive-thru 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, drive and walk thru nativity scenes in Southern California for your enjoyment!
Nativity Scenes in Orange County
Drive Thru Nativity, First Christian Church, Huntington Beach
December 6–8 @ 6:00-9:30 pm
The Drive-Thru Nativity at First Christian Church of Huntington Beach has been a staple in the community for almost 50 years. Actors and live animals tell the story of Jesus’ birth through 9 different stations. Whether you’re driving through or walking, you’ll remember the true magic of Christmas as you celebrate with friends and family.
Walk Thru A Night in Bethlehem, Liberty Baptist Church, Newport Beach
December 8 @ 6:00-8:00 pm & December 9 -10 @ 5:00-7:00 pm
Experience the sights, sounds and excitement of the very first Christmas! Bring friends and family to experience a first-centry 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.
Live Nativity Show, Old World German Village, Huntington Beach
December 17 @ 6:00 pm (doors open at 5:30 pm)
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.
Walk Thru Nativity, Crossline Community Church, Laguna Hills
December 15 & 16 @ 5:00-8:00 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. Mary, Joseph, wise men, angels, shepherds, and townspeople. Live camels, sheep, donkeys, & Roman soldiers on horseback.A petting zoo, cookie/craft decorating and holiday treats/hot drinks for all.
Drive Thru Nativity, Mount of Olives Church, Mission Viejo
December 8 & 9 @ 6:00-10:00 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!
Nativity Scenes in Los Angeles
Interactive Live Nativity, CVC Church, La Crescenta
December 10 @ 4:00–6:00 pm
Experience the interactive live Nativity at the recreated town of Jesus’ birth! Come to Explore Bethlehem, the fantastic and FREE event for the whole family! Children can take a FREE camel ride, make candles, create pottery, make their own perfume, make leather projects, hear great story-telling, and get their picture taken with live animals! Come and experience the live Nativity, the songs of Christmas and much more with your kids, family members, friends and coworkers to get into the Christmas spirit. See a live video of the live Nativity here!
Live Walk Thru Nativity, Portraits of the Prince of Peace Pageant, Long Beach
December 8 – 10 @ 7:30–9:00 pm
Enjoy the story of Christmas with a candlelit outdoor walk. Come follow the path through many nativity scenes, complete with actors and live animals. Six prominent churches located within a few short blocks feature a variety of FREE performances and refreshments. Delightful choirs, musical groups, chimes and bell ringers complete the joyous celebration. Located at 5500 Block of Wardlow Road, in between Bellflower Blvd & San Anseline St. Free parking at the churches.
Live Walk Thru Nativity, Granite Creek Community Church, Claremont
December 14-17 @ 5:00–9:00 pm
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!
To enhance the Nativity experience, this year’s production is a FREE ticketed-only event. You must have a ticket to view the show. A set number of tickets are available for each 15-minute increment, with a maximum of 10 tickets per individual. The maximum amount of time a ticketed holder will have to wait is 30 minutes. To reserve a ticket, visit here.
Please be aware that the Nativity is a walk-thru event. If you are unable to walk through because you are nonambulatory, please notify one of the parking/line attendants and they will direct you accordingly. No handicapped vehicles after 8:30 pm.
Drive Thru Nativity, Community Christian Church of The Foothills, Tujunga
December 8-9 @ 6:30-9:30 pm
A Free Drive-Thru Nativity Scene for the whole family! See a live video of the Nativity here!
Nativity Scenes in Riverside and San Bernardino
Drive or Walk Thru Nativity Scenes @ Christmas on Euclid Street, Ontario
The evvent takes place the weekend before Thanksgiving thru the first week of January.
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.
Walk Thru Nativity, Journey to Bethlehem, Purpose Church, Pomona
December 8 @ 6:00 – 8:00 pm & December 9-10 @ 5:00 – 7:00 pm
Shalom! Journey to Bethlehem at Purpose Church for 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. Entrance and parking are 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! Watch a preview video here.
Nativity Scenes in San Diego
Live Walk Thru Nativity, Faith Chapel, Spring Valley
December 7-10 @ 6:00-9:00 pm
Bethlehem Story is a live interactive walk through the city of Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago! See a great promo video here.
Bethlehem Walk, First United Methodist of Escondido, Escondido
December 8 @ 5:30-8:55 pm, December 9 @ 4:00-8:25 pm & December 10 @ 4:00-7:55 pm
Free to the public, Bethlehem Walk invites visitors to experience a re-creation of the traditional birthplace of Jesus.
Bethlehem Walk 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. Upon entering the lively city, the thousands of visitors that come to Bethlehem Walk each year embark on a guided tour through masterfully-staged open areas of the church grounds. With live artisans, animals, merchants, prophets and Roman soldiers, visitors become part of the nativity story as they make their way through bustling streets to the inn and, finally, to a real, newborn baby kept warm in a manager.
Bethlehem Walk tours begin every five minutes during designated times. Reservations are highly recommended and are provided priority entrance in the tour groups.
Because Bethlehem Walk is outdoors, participants should dress appropriately. The event will not be cancelled due to inclement weather. The event is family-friendly and handicapped accessible. Bethlehem Walk guests are encouraged to bring donations of nonperishable food items for Interfaith Community Services.
Living Nativity, Calvary Chapel Julian @ The Cider Mill, Julian
Every Saturday until Christmas @ 5:30 pm
A longtime Julian holiday tradition, the Living Nativity is staged at the Cider Mill on Main Street, it features locals appearing as Joseph and Mary, and the shepherds.
Nativity Scenes in Ventura County
Live Nativity, The Old Mission San Buena Ventura, Ventura
December 1 @ 3:30 – 7:30 pm
Downtown Ventura’s Annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony in front of the Mission! Enjoy caroling from local choirs, meet Santa and countdown to the lighting of the Mission’s historic (c. 1880’s) Millennium Norfolk pines. A live Nativity sponsored by Holy Cross School is held on the front steps of the Mission. Main Street will be closed in front of the Mission. Bring a chair if you wish…and a warm coat! Parking is available in the Mission Main Street lower lot, at the Ventura County Museum, and in the Mission upper parking lot off Palm Street.
Drive Thru Nativity @ Faith Lutheran Church, Moorpark
December 8-9 @ 7:00-9:00 pm
Drive Thru Nativity, The First Baptist Church of Camarillo, Camarillo
December 15- 16 @ 6:30-8:30 pm
The birth of Jesus Christ will be depicted in “drive-through” Bible scenes. You can sing along with a live choir with the windows down and have a warm cup of cocoa. Spanish narration available.
Happy Field Tripping!