Permanent Nativity Displays in the United States

– This guide was compiled by Judy Davis and is in its fourth edition.

About this Guide

With the third edition of this guide we included a ranking system for some of the Nativity displays listed. We continue it here in this edition. Since in many instances we have depended on websites for information, a personal visit or other contact could result in change of address, contact information or ranking. We depend on our readers to assist us in updating this information. Please let us know if you visit any of the places or have additional information about any of the places outlined in this guide. Share with us an account of your experiences and/or observations by emailing us at mlimri@udayton.edu.

**** Must See. Nativity Museum – Large collection within a museum, church or other public place – Single Nativity definitely worth a visit

*** Should See. Sizeable collection within a museum, church, or other public place. 

** Worth A Visit if in Area. Some Nativities interspersed among other displays in a museum, church, or other public place. 

* Interesting. Nativity item that may prove interesting to visit if already in the area. To Explore. Exact status to be determined. Let us know if you visit.

Be sure to check before visiting any of these displays. Hours, viewing times, exhibits, and even locations, often change.

A note: if you travel during the Advent/Christmas holiday period, remember that there are special seasonal displays of Nativities in many places in the United States and around the world. Wherever you may be, be sure to check for local Nativity events.


ARIZONA

Tucson

** Tucson Museum of Art. 140 N. Main Avenue – in La Casa Cordova, a 19th Century home. A Nacimiento of 600 miniature pieces is on display every year from late November to mid-March. Casa Cordova open: Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m Sunday noon-4:00 p.m. Closed Mondays and major holidays. (phone: 520-624-2333; fax: 520-624-7202; website: www.tucsonmuseumofart.org)


CALIFORNIA

Carmel

* Mission San Carlos Borromeo, founded 1770. Nativity on display made up of pieces from several different Italian Baroque sets. Located in a room to the left of the altar. Open daily 9:30 a.m.-7 p.m. (phone: 831-624-1271; website: www.carmelmission.org)

San Diego

*** Saint Vincent de Paul Village. 3350 E. Street. More than 600 Nativities from the collection of Fr. Joe Carroll on display. Open: December by appointment. (phone: 619-446-2100)

San Francisco

* Grace Cathedral, Episcopal. 1100 California Street, at Taylor Street on Nob Hill. Nativity figures carved by Antonio Sanjuan Villalba of Valencia, Spain, in 1956. Swedish birch wood, lightly polychromed. Located in north transept. Open: Weekdays, 7 a.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; Sunday, 7 a.m.-7 p.m.; Holidays, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. (phone: 415-749-6300; website: www.gracecathedral.org)


CONNECTICUT

Bethlehem

*** Abbey of Regina Laudis, a community of contemplative Benedictine women. 249 Flanders Road. Visitors welcome to visit 18th Century Neapolitan crèche, with 68 hand-carved figures, a gift from Mrs. Loretta Hines Howard, 1949. It is thought to have belonged to Victor Amadeus II, King of Sardinia, a gift for his coronation in 1720. Crèche open daily, weather permitting, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Closed January 6 until Easter Sunday. (website: www.abbeyofreginalaudis.org) The Lauren Ford Crèche, located in a small farm shed near the Lower Abbey Chapel, is a charming rustic Nativity scene in which heroic-sized figures of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph are dressed in New England clothes, surrounded by hay in a manger. Created by Loren Ford, revered Connecticut artist, who offered hospitality to Lady Abbess and Mother Marie Aline at Sheepfold when they arrived from France in 1947 to create a Monastic Foundation.


ILLINOIS

Chicago

* The Polish Museum of America. 984 N. Milwaukee Avenue. Among displays of Polish history and culture is one large szopka made here in the United States for the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1978. Open Monday and Tuesday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.; Wednesday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Friday-Sunday 11 a.m.-4 p.m.. Closed Thursdays and major holidays. (phone: 773-384-3352; website: www.polishmuseumofamerica.org)

** Saint John Cantius Church. 825 North Carpenter Street. Mid-18th Century Neapolitan presepio (Nativity and village scenes) in an 8’ x 5 1/2’ setting. Also, a 1/3 scale replica of Wit Stwosz altarpiece from the Bazylika Mariacka, Krakow, Poland, with Nativity scene on wings of the altar doors. In general, the Church is a repository of sacred art and relics. Office open: Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-4 p.m. (phone: 312-243-7373; website: www.cantius.org)


INDIANA

North Manchester

* Manchester University, 604 East College Avenue, Funderburg Library, 2nd floor. Display of some 100 Nativities from around the world from the collection of alumni, Joyce and Max Douglas. During Christmas holiday additional sets on display throughout the College community. (For library hours: www.manchester.edu/OAA/Library/files/info/hours.htm)


LOUISIANA

Lafayette

**** Museum, Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, 914 Saint John’s Street, downtown. Italian Baroque presepio from the collection of Jeffery Guéno and the late Frank Hanley. 120 figures and a multitude of accessories in a proper Neapolitan scene in a fiber-optic lighted case 7’ high, 5 1/2’ deep, 11 1/2’ wide, plus two additional scenes in cases 4’ high, 4’ wide, 12” and 18” deep. Open: Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-noon, 1-4 p.m.; Friday, 9 a.m.-noon. (phone: 337-232-1322; special appointments: 337-643-6420.)


MASSACHUSETTS

Maahpee

Christ the King Parish, Mashpee Commons, 3 Jobs Fishing Road, corner of Route 151, on Cape Cod. Display of large-size Fontanini Nativity figures in the Chapel. Open: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m.-4 p.m. (phone: 508-477-7700 fax: 508-477-8158)


MICHIGAN

Frankenmuth

**** Bronner's CHRISTmas Wonderland, 25 Christmas Lane. Nativities on display both inside and out. Museum inside main building holds Bronner Family personal Nativity collection. "Silent Night" Chapel replica on grounds. Open: January-May, Monday-Thursday and Saturday, 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Friday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sunday, noon-5:30 p.m. June-December, Monday-Saturday 9 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sunday noon-7 p.m. Closed January 1, Easter, United States Thanksgiving and Christmas. (phone: 989-652-9931; website www.bronners.com)


MINNESOTA

Minneapolis

**** Westminster Presbyterian Church. 1200 South Marquette Avenue. The Martha Spencer Rogers Crèche Collection. More than 200 Nativities from over 80 different countries. Open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m.-noon (phone: 612-332-3421; website: www.westminstermpls.org/gallery)

Saint Anthony Village

** Nativity Lutheran Church, 3312 Silver Lake Road. (Suburb 5 miles Northeast of Minneapolis) Collection of Nativities from around the world. Open during regular office hours and at church services. (phone: 612-781-2766; website: www.nativitychurch.org)


NEW HAMPSHIRE

Enfield

**** Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette, 410 NH Route 4A. Monsignor Charles DesRuisseaux Collection. Over 450 Nativities from more than 50 countries. Open daily June-December, 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m; December 1-31, 5-9 p.m. (phone: 603-632-7087; website: www.lasaletteofenfield.org; Fr. Rene J. Butler, M.S., Shrine Director)


NEW JERSEY

Mount Laurel

* Cistercian Monastery, 564 Walton Avenue. Italian presepio, 20' wide x 25' deep. Six-minute taped narration of the Christmas story. Open daily 8 a.m.-8 p.m. year round. (phone: 856-235-1330)


NEW MEXICO

Sante Fe

** Museum of International Folk Art. 706 Camino Lejo, off Old Santa Fe Trail. Nativities can be seen in the exhibition, Multiple Visions: A Common Bond, in the Girard Wing. Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Closed Mondays except during summer months. (phone: 505-476-1200)


NEW YORK

New York City

* Church of Saint Francis of Assisi, 135 West 31st Street (between 6th and 7th Avenues). Perpetual Christmas Crib in lower church. Relic from cave of the Nativity in Bethlehem set into rail in front of crib. Church open Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. (phone: 212-736-8500)


OHIO

Akron

**** Nativity of the Lord Jesus Catholic Church. 2425 Myersville Road, Corner of Killian and Myersville Roads. Replicas of the Bethlehem Cave, Altars, Manger of the Infant Jesus and Museum adjacent to the Chapel with 500+ Nativities from around the world shown on a rotating basis. Open weekdays, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday before and after Masses. (phone: 330-699-5086; website: www.nativityofthelord.org)

Cincinnati

Comboni Mission Center, 1318 Nagel Road. Miniature Nativity scene, animated, with narrative and music, showing the entire city of Jerusalem. Open: second Sunday in December until end of month, 6-9 p.m. daily, excluding December 24 and 25; also Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-4 p.m. by appointment – individuals and groups. (phone: 513-474-4997; website: www.combonimissionaries.org)

Dayton

**** The Marian Library, University of Dayton, 300 College Park (7th floor of the Roesch Library buidling). Collection of more than 3,000 sets from around the world. Multiple seasonal displays and small, year-round crèche museum. Do not miss the large Kevin Hanna “Mirror of Hope” representing major events of the Old and New Testaments located, year-round, in the Roesch Library lobby (illustrated book available). The Marian Library art gallery and crèche museum are open Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. or by appointment. Also open by appointment is the crèche workshop, where additional sets are housed. (phone: 937-229-4214; website: www.udayton.edu/imri)


PENNSYLVANIA

Chalfont

*** Byers’ Choice Ltd., (makers of the Christmas caroler figures) 30 miles north of Philadelphia, 4355 County Line Road. One room of Visitors’ Center houses collection of more than 200 crèches from around the world, including an 18th Century Italian presepio. Open year-round Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday, noon-5 p.m. Closed major holidays. (phone: 215-822-6700; website: www.byerschoice.com)

Grove City

**** Slovak Folk Crafts. 1605 South Center Street. (Pennsylvania Exit 113 on Highway I-79) A hand-carved basswood Nativity is at the center of a 17’ x 6’ x 8’ wooden display with 82 moving figures depicting folk life as it existed in Slovakia for centuries. Carved by Vladimir Tomko and Miloš Karabin under the design and supervision of Master Carver Jozef Pekara. Modeled after a larger mechanical Nativity in Rajecká Lesná, Slovakia, built by Master Pekara. This is the largest known mechanical Nativity in North America. Open Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Closed Sunday. (phone: 866-756-8257; website: www.SlovakFolkCrafts.com)

Paradise, Lancaster County

National Christmas Center, 3427 Lincoln Highway. Over 300 Nativity sets on display, including the contemporary collection of Jay Bullock. There is a large selection of 20th century Nativities, a narrated Pennsylvania Moravian Putz, a magnificent life-size hand carved 20-piece Italian Nativity (late 1800s), and an incredible walk-through Journey from the House in Nazareth, through the wilderness, into a cave in Bethlehem. (17 life-size wax figures). Open: May-December daily 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Group tours year-round by appointment. (phone: 717-442-7950; website: www.nationalchristmascenter.com)

Philadelphia

* Saint Mary’s at the Cathedral, Chapel of Saint Michael and All Angels, 630 East Cathedral Road, at Ridge Avenue. Chinese crèche brought from China in 1943 by missionary, Deacon Katherine Putnam, who served there for 33 years. Located in side chapel year-round; moved into church during Christmas season. (phone: 215-482-6300)


TENNESSEE

Nashville

** The Upper Room Chapel and Christian Art Museum, 1908 Grand Avenue.  “Night of the Child” Nativity and “Madonna and Child Gallery,” with 100+ Nativity scenes on display November-January and 30-40 scenes on display remainder of year.  Open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Closed Saturdays, Sundays, holidays.

Tullahoma

First United Methodist Church, 208 West Lauderdale Street. Display of 250+ Nativity scenes from around the world. Contact church office for hours. (phone: 931-455-5434)


TEXAS

Del Rio

Whitehead Memorial Museum, 1308 South Main Street, Cadena Nativity. Display is 32’ long, 10’ high, 20’ deep and has 1287 items collected from California and Mexico over many years by Beatriz Rodriguez Cadena. Open year-round Tuesday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sunday, 1-5 p.m.; closed Monday. (phone: 830-774-7568; website: http://www.whiteheadmuseum.org)

Sanger

**** “Bethlehem in Denton County”, 990 Milam Road East (5 miles north of Denton on I-35N, Exit 473). Collection of Judy Klein. Over 3,200 Nativities. Viewings by appointment, evenings and weekends only. Groups of 10 persons maximum. (phone: 940-231-4520; email: jkmk@grandecom.net; website: www.bethlehemindentonco.com)


WASINGTON D.C.

Mount Saint Sepulchre, a Franciscan Monastery. Replica of the Holy Manger. 1400 Quincy Street NE. Tours offered daily on the hour. Monday-Saturday 10 a.m, 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.; Sunday 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. (phone: 202-526-6800; website: www.myfranciscan.com)


WISCONSIN

Green Lake

Green Lake Conference Center, in the Roger Williams Inn. W2511 State Road 23 – west of Fond du Lac. Some 250 Nativities from the collection of Merrill and Elaine Luman on display. Viewing hours vary, especially during the winter months when the display may be closed, so be sure to check before visiting. (phone:920-294-3323)

Menomonee Falls

**** Holy Cross Lutheran Church, W156-N8131 Pilgrim Road. “The Joy to the World Nativity Collection”. Over 500 Nativities from more than 65 countries, collected by Bill and Susanne Gay. Open September-May – Monday-Friday, 1-3 p.m.; Sunday, 7:45-11:30; June-August – Monday-Thursday, 1-3 p.m.; Sunday 7:45-10, guided tours by appointment. (phone: 262-255-4670) (church phone: 262-251-2740)

Oshkosh

Algoma Boulevard United Methodist Church, 1174 Algoma Boulevard, corner of New York. On lower level, collection of more than 1,000 Nativities from around the world displayed artistically. Open year-round during regular church hours; Sundays 8 a.m.-noon; Monday-Thursday, 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; Friday, 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (To be sure church is open or schedule a tour – phone: 920-231-2800; email: info@abumc.org; website: www.abumc.org)

More Information

International Marian Research Institute

300 College Park 
Dayton, Ohio 45469 

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