50 coldest cities in America on Christmas
The traditional portrait of a picture-perfect Christmas Day includes neighborhoods covered in soft snow, smoke wafting from homes' chimneys, and families gathered together to celebrate one of the most highly anticipated holidays of the year. While many people hope for a white Christmas, keeping track of weather patterns during December can be tricky—especially in a large country like the United States, where there are significant weather variations between regions and coastlines.
To uncover which cities have endured some of the most brutally cold Christmases, Stacker consulted data from 146 available northern U.S. cities in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s “Climate at a Glance: City Time Series” database. Stacker identified the 50 coldest cities by average temperature in December with data from 1968 to 2018 and compiled the minimum and maximum average December temperatures.
Cities were ranked from the highest minimum temperature recorded to the lowest. The data show that while states like New Hampshire and Nebraska certainly get cold, their December weather might seem like a walk in the park in comparison. Regardless, you're wise to be prepared for some serious cold if your home town or holiday vacation destination appears in this gallery. Keep several layers of warm clothes handy—along with a pair of thick gloves or mittens, and plenty of hot cocoa.
Most of the coldest Christmas days in these 50 cities took place in 1983 and 1989. Read on to learn why the Christmas seasons of those two years were unbearably cold and how different towns have adopted their own, unique traditions and events to celebrate the holiday spirit with gusto.
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#50. Concord, New Hampshire
- Average December temperature: 27.12°
- Maximum temperature: 37.8° (2015)
- Minimum temperature: 12.5° (1989)
The Concord Christmas Parade, which has been organized by State Rep. Dick Patten for the last 48 years, ran into controversy in 2018, according to the Concord Monitor. The mayor of the city and other officials refused to attend the parade because of Patten’s racist remarks towards another state representative, Safiya Wazir, who used to be a refugee from Afghanistan. He commented on how “a lot of out-of-Concord people are getting everything” after Wazir won the general election. This also resulted in the city’s annual Multicultural Festival participants to back out from being a part of the parade after Patten reportedly made them feel unwelcome.
#49. Grand Island, Nebraska
- Average December temperature: 27.10°
- Maximum temperature: 34.1° (1979)
- Minimum temperature: 8.7° (1983)
The Stolley House in Grand Island’s Stolley Park is one of the major Christmas attractions in the city. According to The Grand Island Independent, their annual Christmas open house is a way to celebrate the holiday traditions of the first European settlers who moved to the area in 1859. The house is adorned with Christmas decorations from those times. The decorations include a Christmas tree made of green-dyed goose or turkey feathers that originated in Germany and made popular as an artificial tree in the U.S. during the 20th century.
#48. Scottsbluff, Nebraska
- Average December temperature: 26.97°
- Maximum temperature: 35.5° (1980)
- Minimum temperature: 12.5° (1983)
The Scottsbluff Christmas Parade that features the U.S. Capitol Tree attracts huge crowds to the downtown area. Every year, the Capitol Christmas Tree has a different theme. In 2018, it was “Find Your Trail” to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the National Trails System Act, according to Scottsbluff Star-Herald.
#47. Omaha, Nebraska
- Average December temperature: 26.90°
- Maximum temperature: 34.2° (2015)
- Minimum temperature: 8.7° (1983)
In 1983, an unexpected weather pattern resulted in the frigid Arctic air being pushed to Texas and caused the coldest Christmas on record in Omaha and many other parts of America. Omaha World-Herald reported that during the entire Christmas week, the weather was so unforgivingly cold that it claimed the lives of six people in Nebraska and Iowa. Pipes ended up freezing in people’s homes, and locals described it as “nightmarish” when they had to remove their cars’ batteries to save them from getting frozen and damaged.
#46. Binghamton, New York
- Average December temperature: 26.67°
- Maximum temperature: 39.7° (2015)
- Minimum temperature: 13.1° (1989)
Binghamton’s zoo, Animal Adventure, gets decked up with elaborate Christmas lights every year, and visitors are allowed to feed their animals and meet reindeer to enjoy the holiday spirit. Another amusing event that locals attend is the “Holiday Sweater Contest,” where the person with the ugliest or tackiest holiday sweater wins gift cards from The Colonial at Binghamton University.
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#45. North Platte, Nebraska
- Average December temperature: 26.66°
- Maximum temperature: 33.9° (1991)
- Minimum temperature: 8° (1983)
In Nebraska, North Platte is famous for going above and beyond to celebrate Christmas. The city transforms into a wonderland of extravagant holiday lights. Cody Park is one of the most popular light festivals but far from the only major Christmas event. The city follows a long tradition known as the “Carousel of Homes,” which includes four houses completely adorned with decorations and lightings. For instance, one home had a Union Pacific model train running through it.
#44. Burlington, Vermont
- Average December temperature: 26.38°
- Maximum temperature: 39.2° (2015)
- Minimum temperature: 8.6° (1989)
The December 1989 Arctic outbreak resulted in record-breaking low temperatures not just in Vermont, but also across Connecticut, North Dakota, Maine, and to Florida. The cold wave resulted in 19 days of sub-freezing temperatures in December—making it the seventh coldest month on record.
#43. Billings, Montana
- Average December temperature: 26.18°
- Maximum temperature: 35.2° (1999)
- Minimum temperature: 7.7° (1983)
In 1983, for eight days straight during the Christmas holidays, Billings survived the coldest December ever recorded. The city made yet another record in December 2016 when it received the heaviest snowfall after 61 long years. Around 30 inches of snow was recorded during that one month, according to the National Weather Service.
This holiday season, Billings is going full-on Christmas with everything from holiday screenings at the Babcock Theatre to ZooLights and Wagon Rides at ZooMontana.
#42. Rockford, Illinois
- Average December temperature: 25.93°
- Maximum temperature: 37.8° (2015)
- Minimum temperature: 13.2° (1983)
The Rockford River Lights event, where music-synchronized lights are flashed by the banks of the river, is one of the major Christmas attractions in the city. Another major event is held at the Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens, where holiday-themed lights are installed inside and outside the venue.
#41. Pocatello, Idaho
- Average December temperature: 25.13°
- Maximum temperature: 32.3° (2014)
- Minimum temperature: 11.4° (1985)
Pocatello is the largest city of Bannock County that has been inhabited by the Bannock and Shoshone tribes for centuries. The city kicks off the Christmas season in November with a festival, parade, and fireworks.
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