Top 5 Coldest Cities in the United States | Coldest Winter Cities | The Old Farmer's Almanac

Top 5 Coldest Cities in the United States

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Where are America's Coldest Cities?

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What are the top five coldest cities in the United States? We’ve compiled a new list based on mean annual temperatures to see which city is the coldest of them all. Did your city make the cut?

“No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow.”

For the “coldest cities” list, we’re not looking at the cities that have experienced the lowest minimum temperatures but rather the most consistently cold cities. To find this out, we looked at the cities’ mean annual temperatures over a 30-year period.

Additionally, it may come as no surprise that Alaska performs exceptionally well in this kind of ranking. To even the playing field and give other states a chance, we’ve narrowed this list down to cities with a population of at least 10,000.

Without further ado, here’s the ranking!

Top 5 Coldest Cities in the United States

5. Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan (41.7°F)

Sault Ste. Marie is the second-most populated city in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, perched at the eastern tip of Lake Superior and across the St. Mary’s River from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Being a direct neighbor to Canada is usually a good indicator that it will be cold, so it’s no surprise that Sault Ste. Marie secured the fifth position on our list.

4. Williston, North Dakota (41.5°F)

Perhaps best known for its booming oil industry, which caused the city’s population to double between 2010 and 2020, Williston is located in North Dakota’s northeastern quadrant. Although the city may be considered “hot” in the oil industry, its frigid winters keep its mean temperatures low enough to rank at number four.

3. Grand Forks, North Dakota (39.8°F)

Less than 100 miles north of Fargo lies Grand Forks, which ranks third on our list. Grand Forks’ lowest temperature on record is -43°F, and its mean annual temperature doesn’t even crack 40°F!

Duluth North Pier Lighthouse in winter
The Duluth North Pier Lighthouse in winter. Photo by BlueGreen/Shutterstock

2. Duluth, Minnesota (39.6°F)

We started this list at the eastern tip of Lake Superior, so it also seems appropriate to talk about the other side of the lake. On Lake Superior’s western tip, you’ll find chilly Duluth, which barely edged out Grand Forks by 0.2 degrees to take second in our ranking.

1. Fairbanks, Alaska (27.6°F)

Surprised? Alaska managed to take the win even with our “population of at least 10,000” stipulation. The city experiences a mean annual temperature of 27.6°F—that’s below the freezing point! For those interested in records, the lowest temperature on record for Fairbanks is -66°F. Brrr.

View from University of Alaska Fairbanks.
The view from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Photo by Gary Whitton/Shutterstock

Honorable Mention

We would be remiss not to mention one city in particular, as it blew the other cities’ temperatures out of the water but did not meet our population cut-off. This is Utqiagvik (Barrow), Alaska, which has a mean annual temperature of a bone-chilling 11.7°F! Given that it’s the northernmost city in the United States and sits north of the Arctic Circle, the only surprising thing about the city is that nearly 5,000 people can call it home!

(Note: This list is based on climate normals data from the National Centers for Environmental Information.)

Other Cold Cities to Watch

To add interest, let’s highlight a few other wintry U.S. cities. If you’re planning any winter vacations, keep an eye on the weather in these places!

Boston, Massachusetts

  • Nor’easter storms translate to heavy rainfall, snow, and freezing temperatures. Thanks to the wicked nor’easters, Boston has experienced some of the top blizzards in the past century.

Chicago, Illinois

  • The “Windy City” (which isn’t actually that windy) has one of the coldest average temperatures and some of the heaviest snowfalls. Many of the worst storms in history have hit Chicago.

Cleveland, Ohio

  • Due to its location near Lake Erie, Cleveland gets hit hard by lake-effect snow, winds, and subzero temperatures.

Detroit, Michigan

  • With over 40 inches of snow every winter, on average, Detroit also ranks as one of the coldest U.S. cities.

Indianapolis, IN, and Columbus, OH

  • Both midwestern cities have many similarities, including the low normal daily mean temperatures in winter months, many frigid days, and fierce winds.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

  • Not only does this city rank high on snowfall and have low average winter temperatures, but it’s also below freezing on your average winter day.

Snowiest Cities

What about the snowiest places in the country? That’s an entirely separate (but similar) list! See which cities can claim to be the most snowbound: Top 10 Snowiest Cities in the U.S.

How cold does it get where you live? 

About The Author

Catherine Boeckmann

Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprise that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann

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