The 12 Coldest Cities In The United States

What is the coldest city in the United States? Winter temperatures in the United States vary greatly between the northern and southern halves of the country. In many parts of the US, however, temperatures drop below freezing (0°C/ 32°F) during winter months.

The 12 Coldest Cities In The United States (US): When we think of cold weather, what often comes to mind is warm blankets, hot drinks and a magical snowscape. While it’s true the cold can lead to seasonal pleasantries, extreme cold can often have harsh implications — especially for home insurance.

The coldest cities in the United States are faced with intense snow, scathing winds and dangerous ice each winter. These conditions can pose risks to your home and personal safety. Even if you don’t live in one of the nation’s coldest cities, it’s possible you still face these threats if your home experiences freezing winters.

In this article, we’ll reveal the 13 coldest cities in the U.S., what geographical features contribute to their ranking and offer insight on the best time to plan a trip to these locations (Spoiler alert: It’s not January).

Methodology: To compile this list, we used data obtained from World Population Review highlighting the lowest minimum average temperatures in cities with at least 10,000 residents in the U.S. For tiebreakers, we used data obtained from Climate Data Online that shows the lowest recorded temperatures for each city.

The 12 Coldest Cities In The United States

1. Fairbanks, Alaska

Fairbanks, Alaska
Fairbanks, Alaska

With a minimum average temperature of about minus 17 degrees Fahrenheit, Fairbanks takes the cake as the coldest city in the U.S. The northernmost major city in Alaska, Fairbanks has seen record cold temperatures reaching minus 66 degrees in the past.

Unlike other major Alaskan cities, Fairbanks sits below sea level in the Tanana Valley. Due to its low-lying location, the city receives limited sunlight and little warmth from the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Alaska. Since it resides at the bottom of the valley, warm air tends to rise to the top of the valley while cold air remains at the bottom.

Minimum average temperature: Minus 16.9 degrees Fahrenheit

Lowest recorded temperature: Minus 66 degrees Fahrenheit

When to visit: Fairbanks remains frigid for a significant portion of the year. However, if you’re able to visit in July or August, you may be able to get temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re willing to brave colder temperatures, you can see the northern lights in the fall.

2. Grand Forks, North Dakota

Grand Forks, North Dakota
Grand Forks, North Dakota

North Dakota is home to many of the coldest major cities in the U.S. — and Grand Forks is the coldest of the bunch. With a minimum average temperature of around minus 3 degrees Fahrenheit, Grand Forks rarely gets past zero degrees in January, its coldest month of the year.

Besides being one of the northernmost cities in one of the Midwest’s northernmost states, Grand Forks isn’t near any mountain ranges or bodies of water. Due to its mostly flat and arid landscape, Grand Forks is more susceptible to extreme cold and wind than other North Dakota cities.

Average minimum temperature: Minus 3.1 degrees Fahrenheit

Lowest recorded temperature: Minus 43 degrees Fahrenheit

When to visit: Despite having extremely cold winters, Grand Forks sees highs in the high 70s and low 80s between June and September. Grand Forks also sees moderate temperatures in April.

3. Williston, North Dakota

Williston, North Dakota
Williston, North Dakota

Directly west of Grand Forks, Williston holds almost equally cold temperatures — with minimum averages around zero degrees. Like Grand Forks, Williston is coldest in January, with average temperatures typically ranging between 5 and 23 degrees over the course of the month.

Williston sees a particularly wide range of weather throughout the year, as temperatures in July tend to stay around 85 degrees while December and January temperatures rarely creep over 20 degrees.

Minimum average temperature: 0.1 degrees Fahrenheit

Lowest recorded temperature: Minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit

When to visit: Like Grand Forks, temperatures in Williston vary drastically. April through October tend to be warm and moderate before becoming frigid in November.

4. Fargo, North Dakota

Fargo, North Dakota
Fargo, North Dakota

In their hit movie Fargo, the Coen Brothers dramatized a lot about the North Dakota city, but the blanketing snow was true to life. Located at the North Dakota and Minnesota border, Fargo is vulnerable to the extreme cold and wind that sweeps through the Upper Midwest during winter months.

Fargo, however, does experience four seasons and can be beautiful to visit in the summer and fall months. It isn’t until December that the frigid cold begins to take over the city.

Minimum average temperature: 0.1 degrees Fahrenheit

Lowest recorded temperature: Minus 39 degrees Fahrenheit

When to visit: While Fargo experiences four seasons, you’ll find the most comfort during the summer. Spring and fall in Fargo can be nice, but temperatures can spontaneously slip into the 20s and 30s

5. Aberdeen, South Dakota

Aberdeen, South Dakota
Aberdeen, South Dakota

Located in the Northeast region of the state, Aberdeen faces many of the same elements that frigid North Dakota cities face, namely arid landscapes devoid of mountains and water.

South Dakota sits near the middle of the continent, meaning it’s exposed to both warm air coming from the Gulf of Mexico and cold air originating mainly from Canada. As a result, northern cities in South Dakota experience the same frigid temperatures as many North Dakota cities.

Minimum average temperature: 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit

Lowest recorded temperature: Minus 46 degrees Fahrenheit

When to visit: Temperatures in Aberdeen are somewhat moderate between May and October. However, lows may begin to reach the 30s in September and October.

6. Duluth, Minnesota

Duluth, Minnesota
Duluth, Minnesota

Staying in the Midwest, Duluth is particularly susceptible to extreme cold due to its proximity to Lake Superior in an area commonly known as the “snowbelt.”

The cause of this massive influx of snow is a geographical phenomenon known as lake effect snow. This is when cold air flows across the warm waters of the Great Lakes, therefore picking up moisture along the way. When the air rises, clouds can form and produce an intense amount of snow. Duluth’s proximity to Lake Superior makes it one of America’s snowiest cities.

Minimum average temperature: 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit

Lowest recorded temperature: Minus 39 degrees Fahrenheit

When to visit: Spring is the busiest time of year for tourism in Duluth, largely because visitors can enjoy highs in the 70s. However, be warned that mornings may see temperatures in the 30s before rising in the afternoon.

7. St. Cloud, Minnesota

St. Cloud, Minnesota
St. Cloud, Minnesota

Located slightly south of Duluth, St. Cloud is also susceptible to lake effect snow coming across Lake Superior, thus leading to snow blankets and freezing temperatures.

Unlike Duluth and cities in the northern area of the state, St. Cloud experiences humidity in the summer months, since it’s southern enough to receive warm air flowing up from the Gulf of Mexico.

Minimum average temperature: 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit

Lowest recorded temperature: Minus 43 degrees Fahrenheit

When to visit: Late spring and summer are the best times to visit St. Cloud. Expect a little more rain and humidity in the summer months.

8. Bismarck, North Dakota

Bismarck, North Dakota
Bismarck, North Dakota

Unlike Williston and Grand Forks, Bismarck is located further south in North Dakota but is still susceptible to the cold weather that takes over the state in the winter months.

The capital city of North Dakota, Bismarck is fairly arid and dry, making it vulnerable to extreme cold during the winter but also more humid heat during the summer. Like Fargo, Bismarck has four distinct seasons.

Minimum average temperature: 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit

Lowest recorded temperature: Minus 44 degrees Fahrenheit

When to visit: Spring can be very nice in Bismarck, but also somewhat volatile. Snow storms and even tornadoes are not uncommon during the spring in Bismarck. As a result, May through September is the safest time to explore the city.

9. Marquette, Michigan

Marquette, Michigan
Marquette, Michigan

While it’s not home to as many frigid cities as North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota, Michigan can experience extreme cold in the winter — and Marquette is the coldest major city in the state.

Marquette is located in the upper peninsula of Michigan, which is made up of two elevated landmasses in the state — the northernmost almost reaching Canada. Due to the area’s proximity to the Great Lakes, these cities can sometimes see extreme snow from October all the way up to May.

Minimum average temperature: 5.2 degrees Fahrenheit

Lowest recorded temperature: Minus 34 degrees Fahrenheit

When to visit: Marquette is generally hit with heavy snow that can oftentimes carry over deep into the spring. To avoid trekking through snow, wait until May to visit Marquette.

10. Huron, South Dakota

Huron, South Dakota
Huron, South Dakota

Located in the eastern part of the state and south of Aberdeen, Huron faces warm summers and particularly cold and snowy winters, averaging 37 inches of snow per year — nine inches more than the national average.

Huron often sees snowfall as late as April and as early as October. A relatively humid city, Huron can also see warmer summers juxtaposed with extremely cold winters.

Minimum average temperature: 6.6 degrees Fahrenheit

Lowest recorded temperature: Minus 43 degrees Fahrenheit

When to visit: Huron is particularly interesting because temperatures can hit single digits in the winter but also the upper 80s in the summer. You’re most likely to see moderate temperatures in July and August — but even Huron can feel the summer swelter.

11. Rochester, Minnesota

Rochester, Minnesota
Rochester, Minnesota

Located in the southern area of the state close to the Wisconsin border, Rochester residents are all too familiar with extreme cold and intense snow.

The driving factor in Rochester’s cold temperatures is the wind. According to Weather Spark, Rochester experiences an average wind speed of 10.8 MPH from September to March, and 12.9 MPH during January, the city’s windiest month of the year.

Minimum average temperature: 8 degrees Fahrenheit

Lowest recorded temperature: Minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit

When to visit: June is the most beautiful month to visit Rochester, with temperatures hovering in the 70s for most of the month. July and August are nice, but temperatures can begin to reach the 90s, making it slightly less comfortable.

12. Anchorage, Alaska

Anchorage, Alaska
Anchorage, Alaska

Unlike Fairbanks, Anchorage resides on the edge of the Pacific Ocean further south in the state. As a result, Anchorage receives warmth from the ocean that Fairbanks does not; however, that doesn’t mean Anchorage is exempt from the extreme cold.

With an average low temperature of 13 degrees Fahrenheit, Anchorage faces harsh winters marked by heavy snow. However, due to its proximity to water and southern location, Anchorage enjoys four seasons and warmer summers.

Minimum average temperature: 13 degrees Fahrenheit

Lowest recorded temperature: Minus 34 degrees Fahrenheit

When to visit: Summer is beautiful in Anchorage, with temperatures staying in the low 70s. Like Fairbanks, however, you can catch a glimpse of the northern lights if you opt to go in the winter.

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