Best Places to Live

2010 10 Best Winter Cities

As Old Man Winter rears his head and people in some cities are preparing to hibernate, our picks for the Top 10 Winter Cities are really starting to come alive. With plenty of cold-weather dependent things to do and see, these best places to live are among the coolest of our cool cities. Yes, we mean that both ways.

To help hone our list of America's best winter cities, we enlisted an expert in glacial geography – Patrick Coleman, CEO of the Winter Cities Institute. He shared a few of his top choices for best winter cities, but left the final picks to us. The institute defines a winter city as having an average January temperature that dips below freezing, and that’s where we started looking. Next, we identified cities where people adapt well to wintry weather, embrace the cold and even use it as a way to enhance their quality of life. The cities on our list also ranked well for other livability factors such as having lots to do, affordable housing and unemployment rates below the national average.

“The best winter cities plan for and pay attention to the details of winter livability,” Coleman says. “They find opportunities for innovation and improvement in services, building and product design. Winter cities embrace the winter season and have a winter culture. This extends to transportation, outdoor recreational opportunities, winter tourism and festivals, and appreciation for indoor arts and culture.”

The abundance and range of arctic activities in cities like Anchorage, AK, and Gillette, WY, certainly qualify, as do the history and cultural opportunities in Fargo, ND, and Lebanon, PA. From dogsledding to ice fishing to a bologna drop on New Year's Eve – when temperatures drop you can count on these top 10 winter cities to heat things up.

Photo by Frank Kovalchek.

Ranking Criteria
Average January temperature below freezing
Embrace winter culture 
Winter tourism and activities
Affordable housing
Low unemployment
  • 10

    Gillette, WY

    Population: 31,634
    Brian McCord

    Winter brings out the wild in the West – particularly in Gillette, WY, which has some of the largest deer and elk populations in the region. Snowmobilers and cross-country skiers are sure to spot a few during a jaunt through the 1.8 million-acre Thunder Basin National Grassland. If you don't have a snowmobile, that's not a problem. The city does a good job clearing snow and ice from major streets, sidewalks and even bike paths.

    The economy in Gillette and surrounding Campbell County is thriving thanks to employment gains in construction, machinery manufacturing and sales, so job seekers won't be left out in the cold. 

    Gillette is a town where a kid can be a kid any time of the year. The Campbell County Parks and Recreation Department indoor Field House hosts youth soccer leagues during the cold months, culminating in the Gillette Edge Winter Blast indoor soccer tournament in February. And Gillette’s CAM-PLEX multi-event facility brings artists, musicians, competitions and performances from around the country to entertain the entire family. Sports fans can follow the Pronghorns of Gillette College as they compete in men's and women's basketball in winter months.

    Winter Weather

    • Average January low: 10 degrees
    • Average annual snowfall: 64.7 inches

    Click to see more great things to do in Gillette, WY.