Best Places to Live

2010 10 Best Winter Cities

Discover America's best winter cities "“ from dogsledding in Anchorage, AK to snowmobiling in Gillette, WY "“ when temperatures drop these winter cities really heat up.

Photo courtesy of Frank Kovalchek

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.

Start the List

The best winter cities plan for and pay attention to the details of winter livability,

Patrick Coleman
CEO, Winter Cities Institute

Ranking Criteria

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