10 Coldest Cities in the US & What You Need To Know in 2023
When most people imagine cold countries, places like Switzerland, Russia, and Canada come to mind. Even so, the United States is home to some of the coldest cities, most of which are not very large.
Interestingly, it is difficult to rank the coldest cities because there are different ways you can rank them. You could rank them on a yearly average, minimum temperature, and other similar statistics.
For the purposes of this roundup, we have ranked the 10 coldest cities in the US based on their average temperature. Let’s take a look.
The 10 Coldest Cities in the US: Quick List
- Fairbanks, AK
- Grand Forks, ND
- Duluth, MN
- Marquette, MI
- Williston, ND
- Fargo, ND
- Bismarck, ND
- St. Cloud, MN
- Aberdeen, SD
- Huron, SD
A Closer Look at the 10 Coldest Cities in America
1. Fairbanks, AK
|Coldest Temperature Ever Recorded:||-66ºF|
The coldest city in the United States is Fairbanks, Alaska. Despite being so cold, it is one of the larger cities on this list. In fact, it is the largest and coldest landlocked city in Alaska and places second in terms of size, next only to Anchorage.
Formally, Fairbanks is classified as a humid continental climate. However, it borders on a subarctic climate. This means that it has long, cold winters and short, mild summers.
Freezing temperatures typically last from September to May. To avoid these insanely cold times, it’s best to come during the summer months when the temperature is a bit milder.
2. Grand Forks, ND
|Coldest Temperature Ever Recorded:||-43ºF|
Grand Forks is another relatively large city with insanely cold temperatures. It is the third-largest city in North Dakota, following Fargo and Bismarck. These two bigger cities happen to be on this list as well.
Grand Forks is classified as a humid continental climate, much like Fairbanks. Luckily, Grand Forks has four distinct seasons, making its winter a lot shorter than the first pick. However, the winters get very intense and have cold, Arctic winds. The good news is that it is pretty easy to visit this city and avoid the insane temperatures.
3. Duluth, MN
|Coldest Temperature Ever Recorded:||-41ºF|
Duluth is the fifth largest city in Minnesota. It neighbors Superior, Wisconsin—together, these cities are often referred to as the Twin Ports. Just like the top two coldest cities, it has a humid continental climate.
Duluth winters happen to be very long and snowy. The temperatures are below freezing for at least 100 days of the year. The average annual snowfall is right around 90 inches. Although the cold temperatures are terrible in the winter, it’s a pleasant area to be in during summer. The cooling effect of Lake Superior causes the city to be called the Air-Conditioned City.
4. Marquette, MI
|Coldest Temperature Ever Recorded:||-24ºF|
Marquette is another city that sits near the Great Lakes. It is located on the shores of Lake Superior and serves as a major port as a result. The temperatures are cold, but the proximity to Lake Superior makes them a bit more moderate.
Just like Duluth, Marquette has long, snowy winters. About 73 days out of the year are at or below-freezing temperatures. The average snowfall is 149.1 inches, making it the third-snowiest place in the continental United States. This extreme snow is from the lake, but the lake also provides four distinct seasons for the area.
5. Williston, ND
|Coldest Temperature Ever Recorded:||-50ºF|
Williston may only be fifth on our list, but it has one of the coldest temperatures ever recorded at -50ºF. Oddly enough, two days out of the year also reach above 100ºF on average. Needless to say, this city has a pretty wide range in terms of temperature.
Unlike all the cities above, Williston is classified as having a semi-arid climate. If you want to visit Williston, it’s best to avoid September through May. Instead, stick to the summer to avoid most freezes and frigid weather.
6. Fargo, ND
|Coldest Temperature Ever Recorded:||-38.9ºF|
Fargo is considered the coldest city in the United States based on population. It has a population of nearly 126,000. This is the biggest community that lives in an incredibly cold climate.
Fargo is located in the Great Plains and has a humid continental climate. Its winters are bitterly cold, but the summers are hot and humid. There is an average of 43 days below 0ºF, and it snows about 50.1 inches per season. Still, temperatures reach as high as 90ºF in July.
Because of the extremes of Fargo, this city actually won the Weather Channel’s title of Toughest Weather City in America in 2011.
7. Bismarck, ND
|Coldest Temperature Ever Recorded:||-45ºF|
Bismarck is the capital of North Dakota, and it is the second-biggest city in the state, second only to Fargo. It is most similar in terms of climate to Fargo because it is a humid continental climate in the Great Plains.
The good thing about Bismarck is that snowfall is relatively light. In fact, major storms are rare, although it rains quite a bit during the summer. So, you basically only have to put up with the cold winters. Other than that, you don’t have to worry about severe winter storms.
8. St. Cloud, MN
|Coldest Temperature Ever Recorded:||-43ºF|
St. Cloud is located right in the middle of the state of Minnesota. It has warm summers and cold winters. The average temperature in the winter is 11.6ºF, but it jumps up to 70.3ºF in July. Shockingly, the lowest record temperature is -43ºF, and the highest is 107ºF.
Needless to say, St. Cloud is proof that the humid continental climate zone is a bit crazy. You can get two extreme temperatures, but it depends on when you visit the city. Keep that in mind if you plan to visit St. Cloud anytime soon.
9. Aberdeen, SD
|Coldest Temperature Ever Recorded:||-46ºF|
Aberdeen, South Dakota—not to be confused with Aberdeen, Scotland—is incredibly cold. It is located right on the border between North Dakota and South Dakota. Its climate is classified as humid continental and has four distinct seasons.
Aberdeen sees hot, humid summers and cold, dry winters. For example, there are about 16 days every year that reach 90ºF. Once, the city got as hot as 115ºF. However, this city also has seen temperatures as low as -46ºF.
Like many of the other cities on our list, keep in mind the sort of weather you want to deal with before visiting Aberdeen.
10. Huron, SD
|Coldest Temperature Ever Recorded:||-43ºF|
Finally, the tenth coldest city in the United States is Huron, South Dakota. It has a humid continental climate. Its summers are hot and humid, and its winters are cold and dry with wide temperature extremes
If you want to visit the city when it’s snowing, it’s best to visit between November and April, but be careful not to travel during an extreme snowstorm. May through August tend to have milder temperatures, complete with precipitation and humidity.
What Is the Coldest Major City in the US?
Based on the ten cities above, Fargo is the coldest city based on population. However, Fargo is far from being a big city. If you want to look at major US cities alone, Minneapolis is often considered the coldest major city.
The climate of Minneapolis is very similar to Huron, South Dakota. The annual temperature is around 47ºF, and it has about 34.2 inches of rain every year. The coldest month is in January, and the warmest is in July.
How to Stay Safe in Cold Climates
It’s important that you stay safe whenever it is cold out. Whether you are visiting one of these coldest cities or are out during the winter in your hometown, here is what you need to do to stay safe:
Wear Protective Clothing
Always wear protective clothing whenever you are outside. Make sure to wear warm clothing and layer up. Don’t forget your gloves, hats, scarves, and waterproof boots. It’s a good idea to keep protective clothing in your vehicle in the case of a wreck or some other incident.
Try not to travel if there is a winter advisory in your area. In the case that you have to travel, make sure to let a friend or loved one know how you are planning to get to the location and when you should arrive. Be extra careful when you are driving.
Have an Emergency Kit
Keep an emergency kit in your vehicle or on your person whenever you are in freezing or cold temperatures. Your emergency kit should include water, food, and items to keep you warm. Keep a cell phone on hand in case you need to make an emergency call.
Even though there are some hot locations in the United States, there are some cold ones too. The 10 cities above are the coldest on average. If you ever visit these cities, make sure to look up the predicted weather beforehand and make smart travel decisions.
In the wintertime, no matter where you are located, dress accordingly, travel safely, and have an emergency kit. Doing these three things can save your life in an emergency situation.
Featured Image Credit: JamesDeMers, Pixabay