Top 5 Coldest Cities in the United States

America's Coldest Cities

June 22, 2021
Snowy City Street

What are the top 5 coldest cities in the United States? Here’s the list, based on average temperatures, according to the National Weather Service. Does this surprise you?

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

Top 5 Coldest Cities

For this list, we’re not looking at the cities that have experienced the coldest temperatures, but rather the cities that have been the most consistently frigid. Let’s count them down! (Note: This list is based on data from between January 1 and February 1, 2019, and only includes cities that are monitored by the National Weather Service.)

5. Fargo, North Dakota

Starting off the list is the frozen city of Fargo, North Dakota, made famous by the 1996 movie of the same name. Fargo is known to be cold and this winter has been no different, with an average low temperature of -2°F and an average high of 15°F. The overall average temperature for January comes in at a respectable 6°F, which nabs Fargo the fifth place spot.  The lowest temperature on record is -39°F.

4. Grand Forks, North Dakota

Less than 100 miles north of Fargo lies Grand Forks, ND, which takes fourth place on our list this year. The average low in January was -8°F and the average high was 12°F, while the overall average was a chilly 2°F. Grand Forks’ lowest temperature on record is -43°F.

3. International Falls, Minnesota

Despite some seriously cold nights in late January (reaching -46°F at one point!), International Falls, Minnesota, has experienced a fairly balanced winter, with an average low of -11°F and an average high of 11°F in January. This puts the city at a nice and even 0°F overall. 

2. Fairbanks, Alaska

It should come as no surprise that some of America’s coldest cities are located in its northernmost state, Alaska. In Fairbanks, the average low temperature was a nose hair–freezing -16°F (January), with an average high of 3°F. Thanks to some super-cold days and nights, the average temperature in January was only -7°F.  For those interested in records, the lowest temperature on record is -66°F.

1. Barrow, Alaska

If you want consistent winter cold, move to Barrow, Alaska. Barrow, situated at the very northern tip of the state, takes first place on our Coldest Cities list so far this winter. The average low temperature was -14°F, which is actually two degrees higher than that of Fairbanks. However, where Barrow “shines” is with its average high temperature of just -3°F! This gave Barrow an average of -8°F in January—just low enough to take the win.

See the full list of average temperatures from January 2019 here, or see even more temperature and precipitation data here, courtesy of the National Weather Service. 

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.

Share Your Thoughts

What are the coldest cities you’ve ever been to? Tell us in the comments below!


Reader Comments

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Coldest city I have been to

Frazier, Colorado or Gunnison, Colorado

Coldest city

While growing up in Chicago, Illinois in January 1967. It snowed for three days and very cold.
I can't remember what the temperature, was on those three days. Every thing was shut down.
Foot travel was it, started seeing snow mobiles, some horses, too. Pulling sleighes. Lube

Coldest city

As far as being cold, right now we in Chicago are having temps in the high 40s/low 50s. Sadly, no White Christmas this year! However, we do have 4 great seasons to enjoy.

Coldest cities

Having lived in the south all my life and dreading a cold morning in Chicago l asked the doorman of my hotel what the temperature was outside. He reported "There aint none." It was 0 degrees F.

Cold cities

I grew up in Northern Minnesota. We thought Minneapolis was tropical.

Cold Places

It's not a big city, but a small town, but I went to college in Gunnison, Colorado, and the average Winter temperature was about -10. We competed for the coldest college town with Alamosa, Co. and a college in N.D. and we took turns winning.

Coldest cities

Bemidji, MN
WENT TO UNIVERSITY THERE 79 & 80, two of the coldest winters I’ve spent anywhere. And I grew up in the swampland boonies if northwest Wisconsin.

-40 BELOW...

I grew up in a little town in central Wisconsin called Black River Falls, (Known as BRF to the locals) I remember typically very cold and snowy winters and one where it hit -40 below. We made the national news as the coldest location in the US. We had a thermometer that bottomed out at -40. It blew the mercury out of the bottom so we may have been a bit colder where I lived.

Cold spots

42 below zero at Clearwater Junction Mt. Coldest city : Great Falls Mt. 32 below zero ,Time to retire to Nv. WHAT, 30 below in Winnamucca,ugh

Ohhhh, Canada!

I know that this is a list of >> U.S. Cities, but I suspect Canadians are having a bit of a chuckle. The coldest temperature I've ever personally experienced was -40, in Montréal - and that was the actual temperature, not the wind chill! (-40, by the way, is the same temperature in F and C, but it was small consolation that I didn't have to convert the numbers.)

Coldest city

I live in central Maine, and I am shocked that there's not one mention of this state. Although we've had a mild winter for us, I could name several towns here that are pretty sure to take the prize. But let's just start with Carabou, Maine for an example.

Coldest Cities

The Editors's picture

The rankings above are based on the consistently coldest cities in January 2019, so while it’s certainly possible that Caribou saw a minimum temp lower than other places, perhaps it was just not quite as consistently cold throughout the month. 

Coldest Places in America

Stanley, Idaho is one of the most beautiful places in the country but also one of the very coldest. Situated in the Sawtooth Mountains, near Redfish Lake, its population dwindles way down in the winter. Most people in this small town (population 68) walk to work. Commute time is 5 minutes! :) I only visit there in the summer!

I lived both in Indianapolis

I lived both in Indianapolis and Milwaukee. Milwaukee is a far better city for metropolitan 'feel', transportation, and consumer services, but Indianapolis is the far better city in the winter. I think I read Indy has an average daily temp of 40 degrees by late February, and I don't think Milwaukee hits the 40's until well into April! Plus neither Indy or Columbus have "ample snowfall". People writing this don't know what "ample snowfall" is. I've been in Indy for close to 3 years and I've never touched a shovel. If it snows, it's gone in 3 days or so...

coldest town Ive lived in is going to have to be

Cheyenne, Wyoming...snowing up to 9mths of the year and hail the other 3 ...suicide rate is almost as high as wind speed.

Confusing that

I think you are confusing that with Seattle,WA which tends to not really get that much rain but more of low ceiling clouds and constant drizzle and mist. *Mistle*.

At least in Cheyane you can get decent sunny days spread in between stormy periods regardless of temperature which just seeing the sky can make all the mood differences.

Coldest Cities -- Indianapolis Indiana

I think that Indiana cities in the northern part of the state are much colder due to the wind coming off of Lake Michigan. Areas near Chicago have "lake effect" weather. Indianapolis is rarely colder than -10 Fahrenheit.

coldest cities in the United States

The Editors's picture

Hi Greg, We agree with your statement. The top cities had a population cut-off, so some of those towns are just smaller. Towns in Indiana near Lake Michigan do indeed “enjoy” that lake effect.


coldest us citie

Minot ND I lived there for over 7 years at the AFB and we got wind chills in the negative 50's but were never on the news

coldest cities

So, my hometown, Fairbanks Alaska doesn't count as a city?

coldest cities in the United States

The Editors's picture

HI Lynda, We’ve updated the list to speak more to minimum temperatures than wild weather. And, yes, Fairbanks is #1!!


I love MARQUETTE MICHIGAN, and other Upper PEN. areas. i would love to move back there, but with disability SSD , I can not afford to relocate.

Fargo. Always colder than

Fargo. Always colder than every city on the list. Except July. In that month its hotter than any city on the list. Belongs at #1 on a "US city worst winter weather" list!

Syracuse, New York. End of

Syracuse, New York.
End of Discussion.

120 Inches of Snow.. in an AVERAGE Year...
200 is the Record...

Toronto or Buffalo doesnt

Toronto or Buffalo doesnt makes it wow...E


Toronto, Ontario, Canada has cold winters but the hot summers cause the average temperature to be moderate. I wonder how the winters in White Horse, Yukon Territory, Canada compare as the average High temperature in White Horse is 20F during the cold season.

Duluth, MN.

Duluth, MN.