The USA's Coldest City: Where Winter Breaks All Records

When it comes to frigid temperatures, the United States boasts some extremely cold spots that can make even the hardiest individuals shiver.

While Alaskan cities often come to mind in discussions about extreme cold, there’s one city in the lower 48 states that claims the title of the coldest city in the contiguous United States: International Falls, Minnesota. 

Location and Geography

International Falls, often dubbed the “Icebox of the Nation,” is situated in the northernmost part of Minnesota, just across the Rainy River from Fort Frances, Ontario, Canada.

Its location near the Canadian border places it in a region where bitterly cold Arctic air masses frequently sweep down from the north during the winter months. Additionally, the city is surrounded by numerous lakes, rivers, and forests, contributing to its exceptionally cold climate.

Average Temperature

The claim to fame of International Falls as the coldest city in the United States primarily relies on its bone-chilling temperatures.

During the winter, it’s not uncommon for the city’s average daily high temperatures to hover around the 0°F (-18°C) mark, while nighttime lows can plummet to a bone-numbing -20°F (-29°C) or lower.

In fact, International Falls holds the record for the most days each year with a minimum temperature at or below 32°F (0°C), with an average of 146 days annually.

Record-Breaking Cold

International Falls has set some remarkable cold temperature records over the years. On January 6, 1909, the city recorded its lowest-ever temperature of -55°F (-48°C), a record that still stands to this day. The city is often a contender for the lowest temperature in the contiguous United States during the winter months, battling it out with other frigid locales such as Embarrass, Minnesota, and Fraser, Colorado.

Climate Factors

Several factors contribute to International Falls’ extreme cold. Its proximity to the Arctic and its location within the “Snowbelt” region ensures that it receives heavy snowfall and experiences a prolonged winter season. The frozen waters of Rainy Lake, Rainy River, and the surrounding bodies of water also play a significant role in keeping temperatures low. These frigid water bodies prevent the moderation of temperatures, and when cold air masses move across them, they become even colder.


While the United States has its fair share of cold cities, International Falls, Minnesota, undeniably stands out as the coldest city in the contiguous states.

The residents embrace their city’s cold character and every winter, they bear witness to nature’s spectacular ice and snow displays that define their extraordinary corner of the United States.

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