The 13 coldest cities in the U.S.

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Susan Meyer

Senior Editorial Manager

  • Licensed Insurance Agent — Property and Casualty

Susan is a licensed insurance agent and has worked as a writer and editor for over 10 years across a number of industries. She has worked at The Zebr…

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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.1,2

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1. 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. 

Due to its low-lying location in the Tanana Valley, 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.3 

Population: 32,702 

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

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. 

Population: 58,781

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

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. 

Population: 27,332

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

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. 

Population: 126,748

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

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. 

Population: 28,324

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

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.4

Population: 86,372

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

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. 

Population: 68,818

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

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. 

Population: 74,138

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

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. 

Population: 20,394

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

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.5

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.

Population: 14,231 

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

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.6

Population: 121,465

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

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. 

Population: 288,121

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.

13. Concord, New Hampshire

The list finally moves east with Concord taking the final spot as one of the coldest cities in the country — and the coldest in the northeast. 

The cold in Concord is enhanced by blankets of snow that cover the ground during the winter months. The average snowfall during the coldest months in Concord is 61.8 inches and snow can often carry over deep into the spring.7

Population: 44,006 

Minimum average temperature: 15 degrees Fahrenheit

Lowest recorded temperature: Minus 37 degrees Fahrenheit

When to visit: Concord provides an incredible fall for tourists. It may begin to get cold, but you should expect moderate temperatures with beautiful changing colors.

Top winter home insurance claims

You don’t have to live in one of these locations to be subject to extreme cold, and if your home is susceptible to harsh winters, it’s good to know some common home insurance claims that can arise as a result of winter weather. The top winter home insurance claims include:

  • Frozen pipes 
  • Snow and ice damage
  • House fires 
  • Personal injury 
  • Wind and hail damage 

These claims happen more frequently than you may think. Some particularly interesting stats regarding winter storms and home insurance include: 

  • One out of every 60 insured homes has a damage related to freezing or water damage annually.8
  • Twenty percent of injuries related to exposure to the cold occur within the home.9
  • Winter storms caused $15.1 billion in losses over the first half of 2021.

Even if you don’t live in a reliably cold city, you may want to consider preparing for these conditions as well — in case extreme weather arises. When a polar vortex swept Texas in 2021, for example, 15 million dollars were incurred in losses — making it the costliest winter event in history.10

How to prepare your house for cold weather

While having the right home insurance plan is perhaps the best line of defense for winter weather, there are a number of other ways you can winterize your home and prepare for quickly dropping temperatures. Here are some common occurrences during the winter and the different ways to prepare for them: 

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  • For frozen pipes: Pipes in the crawl space of the home are the most susceptible to freezing since they're exposed to colder temperatures. To prevent against freezing, insulate your pipes in crawl space so they’re protected when cold weather hits.
  • For house fires: House fires are more common than you may think, and since you’ll be cranking up your heating systems during the colder months, it’s smart to have a professional come inspect your furnace before the cold hits.
  • For snow damage: Cleaning your gutters and inspecting your roof are good ideas if you’re expecting heavy snow. You don’t want the gutters bearing any more weight than they have to, and you’ll definitely want to make sure your roof is ready to handle possible blizzards.
  • For ice damage: When tree branches freeze, they become much heavier and can cause significant damage if they land on the home. As a result, it’s smart to cut back longer branches if you’re expecting ice.

Does your policy fit your place?

Home insurance policies aren’t one size fits all. Consider Florida versus Michigan. The record snow depth in Florida is 4 inches. The record in Michigan? 117 inches.11

Weather has a direct impact on your home insurance policy because of the damages extreme cold can cause to your property. If you’ve recently renovated your home, it may be best to reevaluate your policy to ensure you protect your investment. Compare quotes from different home insurance companies to find the one that best suits you, your location and your home.

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