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While some people live for constant sunshine and heat, others thrive on abundant snowfall and cold. For many in the United States, the onset of winter means the arrival of the latter. This is especially true for those who live in the northern states, where winter temperatures regularly fall well below 0 degrees Fahrenheit and snow plows are a regular sight. From Alaska and the Dakotas to Michigan and Minnesota, these are 10 of the coldest cities in the country, according to a report from 24/7 Wall Street which compiled daily temperatures over a 30-year period from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Huron, South Dakota
Huron is located within the wide-open plains of eastern South Dakota. A lack of mountains and trees in the region brings about harsh winters, which are fueled by cold winds that blow down from Canada. Temperatures fall below freezing on around 170 days each year, and the city has a minimum average temperature for the year of 6.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Huron’s residents are accustomed to significant snowfall for several months of the year, with almost 37 inches falling annually on average. Locals embrace the cold with family friendly sledding fun at Toboggan Hill and adventures on 73 miles of snowmobile trails. Those who prefer to experience winter from the comfort of the indoors can go ice skating at Bergman Arena.
Marquette is located within the Great Lakes snowbelt region, where heavy snowfall in the form of lake-effect snow is common. Consequently, this city on the southern shores of Lake Superior is no stranger to fresh powder — an average of 155 inches falls annually. Winters are thus long and cold: The minimum average temperature is just 5.2 degrees Fahrenheit, and the all-time lowest temperature in the city is -34 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the snow is good news for skiers and snowboarders, who carve up on the slopes of Marquette Mountain Resort. Sections of the Noquemanon Trail Network are also within easy reach of downtown.
Bismarck, North Dakota
Bismarck is the capital of North Dakota, which itself is the coldest state in the contiguous U.S. The city witnesses 186 average days below freezing and a minimum winter average of 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit. Bismarck recorded its lowest ever temperature of -45 degrees in both January 1916 and February 1936. Fortunately for residents, there are plenty of things to do indoors in this bitterly cold city, such as visiting the North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum and North Dakota's Gateway to Science. But North Dakotans rarely let the cold get them down, and nearby Huff Hills is an epic playground for snow sports.
St. Cloud, Minnesota
Straddling the Mississippi River in central Minnesota is the state’s second-coldest city, St. Cloud. Here, it’s common for temperatures to drop to below freezing on 176 days throughout the year. The minimum average temperature in winter is 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, and the city’s lowest recorded temperature was a bone-chilling -43 degrees. Although "cold" is an understatement, St. Cloud embraces the weather. Skaters can glide across the frozen-over Lake George, as well as rinks located in several city parks, and the St. Cloud Weihnachtsmarkt (German Christmas market) and Winter Nights and Lights Parade are other worthy reasons to visit in the colder months.
Aberdeen, South Dakota
Similar to its South Dakota neighbor Huron, Aberdeen has few natural barriers to protect from the cold fronts that blow in from Canada. Visitors to this northeastern city of South Dakota can expect an average low in the coldest winter month of 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit and 178 annual days below freezing. When snow falls — mostly between November and April — the city’s nursery rhyme-inspired Storybook Land turns into even more of a real-life fairy-tale. For adventure seekers, it’s also possible to go cross-country skiing and snowshoeing within city limits.
Duluth is another city on the list that’s located on Lake Superior and within the Great Lakes snowbelt region. Temperatures in the snowy winter months bottom out at an average of 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit, and the lowest it’s ever been here is -41 degrees. In 1912, the city even recorded 264 consecutive hours below 0 degrees. Despite the winter chill, Duluth is far from dull: The Great Lakes Aquarium, Lake Superior Marine Museum, and Lake Superior Railroad Museum are all excellent indoor attractions. For outdoorsy types, the city offers everything from dog sledding to ice climbing.
Fargo, North Dakota
Located on the border of North Dakota and Minnesota, Fargo and its twin city of Moorhead are famous for their harsh winters. (Fargo also has pop culture renown, thanks to the Oscar-winning 1997 film and acclaimed FX series of the same name.) Locals and visitors alike relish in the extreme weather conditions, which in Fargo means 177 days below freezing and average low temperatures of 0.1 degrees Fahrenheit. Getting outside and dabbling in varied snow sports is all part of the fun — there are more than a dozen ice rinks dotted around Fargo, West Fargo, and Moorhead. Alternatively, visitors stay warm while exploring local history and traditions at Bonanzaville USA and the Fargo Air Museum.
Williston, North Dakota
Yet another one of the coldest cities in the U.S. is located in North Dakota. Williston, in the western part of the state, experiences below-freezing temperatures on an average of 186 days per year, with the mean low topping out at just 0.1 degrees Fahrenheit. The winter of 1983 to 1984 surpassed all local records by plunging to -50 degrees. Williston is a gateway to Fort Union Trading Post and Fort Buford State Historic Site, which can be viewed in a different light when covered in snow. Visitors can also stand at the confluence of the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers, which are known to suffer from winter ice jams.
Grand Forks, North Dakota
Eighty miles north of Fargo on the banks of the Red River, Grand Forks is used to a minimum average temperature of -3.1 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s also normal for the city to live through 186 days a year when temperatures fall below freezing. In 2004, the city experienced its coldest ever temperature of -43 degrees. However, for those who can brave the chill, the riverside location of Grand Forks lends itself to boundless outdoor recreation in the city’s waterfront parks. Lincoln Drive Park becomes a snow-covered wonderland in winter, where cross-country skiing, ice skating, sledding, and snowshoeing are all popular activities.
America’s coldest city is, perhaps unsurprisingly, located in the country’s northernmost state. Fairbanks’s residents brave 226 annual days below freezing and a mind-boggling minimum average temperature of -13 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s obviously cold, but still notably warmer than the lowest recorded temperature of -66 degrees which occurred on January 14, 1934. Despite the bitterness, Fairbanks is a popular base for exploring the rugged wilderness of Alaska, where you can try dog-sledding, ice fishing, and snowmobiling, among other winter activities. The city has a 100% chance of a White Christmas, too, and it’s Christmas all year round at the nearby town of North Pole.