What the Heck is a “Census-Designated Place?”

I’ve just returned from this year’s TBEX Conference (Travel Blog Exchange) in spectacular little town called Keystone, Colorado. Did I say town? I didn’t exactly mean that…

See, Keystone isn’t a real town. It’s merely just a resort (and a fantastic one at that) surrounded by the immense natural beauty of the Rocky Mountains. It was a real sight to behold, especially waking up every morning to babbling brooks and views like this outside my window:

Keystone, CO

The view from the condo I stayed in! Pretty, isn’t it?

But this insular little community troubled me the entire time I was there. It felt like a resort. Its logo was everywhere. Something was off here. But what was it…

Interwebs, don’t fail me now! And the answer, as I and my fellow researcher Laurel came to learn on Sunday night is that Keystone, Colorado is not technically a town. No, no, it’s a little something termed as a Census-Designated Place.

A what?

What’s a Census-Designated Place?

Turns out a Census-Designated Place, or CDP, is a term assigned by the U.S. Census Bureau to communities that resemble cities but lack incorporation or any sort of municipal government. Or a post office, it seems (at least in the case of Keystone).

So in the eyes of the Census Bureau, Keystone is not a real place. Great! But it gets slightly more complicated than that…

View from the Gondola

The view on the 25 minute gondola ride to the top of the mountain!

Hawaii for instance, doesn’t have incorporated communities, making it a state full of Census-Designated Places… Take Honolulu. According to Wikipedia, Honolulu is considered both a county and a city and the government is consolidated into one, so the Census Bureau considers the urbanized areas of Honolulu to be a Census-Designated Place. Crazy, right??

A Census-Designated Place may be nothing more than a statistical blip according to the Census Bureau, but I think they’re kind of fascinating. Though I don’t think anyone would argue that Honolulu isn’t a real city, we now know what we can call a town that is nothing more than a corporate owned resort. So please, let’s get our terminology straight here. And know that next time you find yourself in an isolated resort that you may not be in a town at all! At least according to the Census Bureau!

Oh, and the conference?

Blogging Fun...

A little social media joke in a presentation by CC Chapman.

As for Keystone and the conference? They were both awesome (this year’s TBEX was a major improvement over last year, with reliable WiFi and coffee!) and the perfect end to my 5 weeks of travel through Turkey and Iraq (with an all-too-brief stop in Vienna). And just what was it like to travel in Iraq’s Kurdistan Region? Well, you’ll have to wait till Sunday to find out!

Cheers! And here’s to Census-Designated Places everywhere!


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9 Responses to What the Heck is a “Census-Designated Place?”

  1. Scott - Quirky Travel Guy June 22, 2012 at 1:15 am #

    I’m usually informed about this sort of trivia, but this is a new term for me. Thanks for the education (and it was nice meeting you at the event!)

    • Aaron June 22, 2012 at 2:51 am #

      Hahaha yes it is rather useless trivia, isn’t it? This search came up at Sunday’s party is that tells you anything… Great to meet you too!

  2. Caanan @ No Vacation Required June 22, 2012 at 6:41 pm #

    So interesting. We find that these resort communities (or, now that I have been edumacated, CDPs) tend to feel a little peculiar. Fascinatin gto learn about Hawai’i as well. I actually commented to Kent that the whole Keystone “brand” reminded me of Ka’anapali in Maui.

  3. craig zabransky June 22, 2012 at 10:52 pm #

    Wow, I never knew this… so is it “what happens in CDPs stays in CDPs?

    And so agree, great conference and great CDP that Keystone.

    stay adventurous, Craig

    • Aaron June 23, 2012 at 10:54 pm #

      Clearly. Except the inspiration for this post, apparently…

  4. Nico November 1, 2012 at 2:30 am #

    They definitely need to sort out their definitions. Honolulu and Keystone don’t seem to have at much in common, but then that’s the same with the English definition of towns and cities. Some places just don’t conform to common sense.

    Nico recently posted… The highs and lows of travelling with friends

    • Aaron November 1, 2012 at 11:25 am #

      I agree. It’s such an odd phenomenon that really has more to do with whether a location has “incorporated” into a municipality. It’s one of those strange technicalities that people really don’t know about unless you do some digging!

  5. Lani November 30, 2013 at 12:42 pm #

    Thanks for enlightening me. I live in what must be a Census Designated Place in the middle of the redwoods. Population 520 (in 201). I am continuously amused by most forms we have to fill out that ask for your address, including “city”. I have always wondererd what category our little CDP fell under – City, town, village or something else. Guess it’s something else!

    I’ll take our little CDP any day over cities, towns, etc.

    • Aaron December 2, 2013 at 1:46 pm #

      Now that is a small town! I’m assuming your CDP still has a name, though, right? Do you have an elected municipal government?

      Must be beautiful living amongst those redwoods though! I don’t blame you for wanting to keep what sounds like your own little slice of Heaven!

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