That is what people who are moving here, especially from southern California ask me all the time.
There are definitely some similarities. Highlands Ranch was developed by Mission Viejo as a large-scale planned community about 12 miles south of Denver. Coincidentally, Mission Viejo is the very same company that developed the well-known community in Orange County, California.
Highlands Ranch spans over 22,000 acres and is home to more than 90,000 residents. This community boasts three full-service recreation centers that really do resemble private, athletic clubs as they offer a variety of exercise and recreational activities. Many folks moving here from California (and other areas as well) are certainly attracted to that kind of full-service facility conveniently included in your HOA fees.
There are miles of trails here too – perfect for nature walks, hiking, biking, and, in some areas, horseback riding. These trails lead into the neighboring wildlife sanctuary and nearby parks. Outdoors activities are very popular among the residents of Highlands Ranch – which is the reason the developers dedicated over 60% of the land to open spaces alone.
Another familiar feature are the California-style strip shopping centers located throughout the community. Popular chains, including Whole Foods, Panera Bread, Chipotle, are ubiquitous. Of course, there are 4 Starbucks in The Ranch as well!
Crime is low, public schools are excellent (better than most in California) and people are friendly. All features that add up to the fact that most Highlands Ranch residents are from out-of-state originally.
Mission Viejo – eat your heart out!