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!
Live Nativity Scenes in Orange County
Drive Thru Nativity, First Christian Church, Huntington Beach
December 5–7 @ 6:00-9:30 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.
Walk Thru A Night in Bethlehem, Liberty Baptist Church, Newport Beach
December 7 – 9 @ 6:00-8:00 pm
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.
A Walk Thru Bethlehem, EV Free Fullerton, Fullerton
December 6, 7, 8 & 9 @ 4:00-9:00 pm
Christmas BLVD is a popular family-oriented Christmas experience that is returning to North Orange County this year! Join us for an evening filled with holiday festivities, food and fun. As a part of the celebration, is an authentic Walk Thru Bethlehem experience. Step back in time and walk the recreated streets of this tiny village to the night when one birth changed the whole world. The live nativity includes real animals and costumed characters from the little town of Bethlehem on the night that Jesus was born.
The Living Nativity, The Church at Green Hills, La Habra
December 14 @ 7:00 pm & 8:00 pm and December 15 & 16 @ 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
December 16 @ 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 14, 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. 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.
Drive Thru Nativity, Mount of Olives Church, Mission Viejo
December 7 & 8 @ 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!
Live Nativity Scenes in Los Angeles
Interactive Live Nativity, CVC Church, La Crescenta
December 9 @ 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 7 – 9 @ 7:30–9:00 pm
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.
Live Walk Thru Nativity, Granite Creek Community Church, Claremont
December 13-16 @ 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!
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. $5 early-bird ticket price until December 2, then tickets will be $7 each. Group discounts of 10 or more available for 25% off. Children under 2 years old are free.
Drive Thru Nativity, Community Christian Church of The Foothills, Tujunga
December 14-15 @ 6:30-9:30 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. This event is free. 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
November 22 – January 2 (all day)
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 7 @ 6:00 – 8:00 pm & December 8-9 @ 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! Admission is $5 for adults and FREE for children 12 and under. Watch a preview video here.
Live Nativity Scenes in San Diego
Live Walk Thru Nativity, Faith Chapel, Spring Valley
December 7 @ 7:00 pm, December 8 @ 2:00 pm & 7:00 pm, and December 9 @ 7:00 pm
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.
Due to construction projects occurring around the church property, this year’s Bethlehem Story will not take place outside. The production will be presented as a live stage musical performance inside the main auditorium. A ticket will be required for each performance. There is no charge for any performance, but it will be necessary to show your printed or phone-based ticket to enter Bethlehem.
Bethlehem Walk, First United Methodist of Escondido, Escondido
December 7 @ 5:30-8:55 pm, December 8 @ 4:00-8:25 pm & December 9 @ 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. Reservations are open to the public starting at 8:30 am on Monday, November 26. You are welcome to come to the event as a walk-in too. However, as a walk-in your waiting time may differ according to time and day.
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
December 1, 8 & 15 @ 5:00 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 @ 5:00 pm
Attend 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. The festivities include a Christmas Village with a variety of booths including food and beverages for the family in Figueroa Plaza and canned food Christmas trees sponsored by Food Share. 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 7-8 @ 7:00-9:00 pm
Drive Thru Nativity, The First Baptist Church of Camarillo, Camarillo
December 21- 22 @ 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!