Living a childhood dream

Center Grove resident visits Disney World around 50 times in 18 years

By Sherri Coner

Some people never find their happy place.

But Center Grove resident, Terry Locke, is definitely not one of those people.

Imagine Cinderella twirling in front of her castle, Mickey and Minnie Mouse posing for photos and 43 square miles of additional magic in every direction.

If you guessed Disney World, then you know exactly where Locke loves to be.

Like many Boomers, she grew up watching the “Wonderful World of Disney,” which aired from 1961 to 1969.

“I was in love with it before I even got there,” Locke said of her family’s first trip in 2005.

Becoming a kid again

Over the last 18 years, that mesmerized feeling has never left her heart.

At least twice each year, Locke and her husband, Rick leave adult responsibilities behind when they head south.

Rick and Terry Locke in front of Magic Kingdom Park at Disney World. (Submitted photos)

Sometimes their six grandchildren accompany them.

Many times, it’s just the two of them.

While Locke rides the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror or Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith, “Rick is very happy to sit and eat ice cream,” she said with a laugh.

When a hankering hits to again wander around in the middle of her childhood dream, Locke makes solo trips if Rick’s work schedule won’t allow him to go along.

In all, she guesses that Disney World has seen her smiling face close to 50 times.

Five times, this Disney loving couple has also visited Disneyland in California.

There’s no place like Disney World

With two landlocked parks neatly provided to visitors on 500 acres, Disneyland is beautiful.

But there’s no comparison to Florida’s sprawling four-park attractions, Locke said.

The Lockes visit Epcot Center.

In the midst of Covid restrictions, Disney World shut its doors for 116 long, sad days.

After not visiting for nearly two years, Locke was emotionally overwhelmed the moment she again walked through the Magic Kingdom.

“I just had to sit down and cry,” she said. “There is nothing else like Disney World.”

Purchasing a motorhome during the Covid lockdown was a Disney World inspired bucket list achievement for this couple.

“Last May we stayed in Fort Wilderness,” Locke said of the Walt Disney campgrounds. “It was really amazing, really top-notch.”

Along with swimming pools, shops and restaurants, the campgrounds also offer horseback riding. Golf carts buzz back and forth as family transportation to the parks.

Though Rick enjoys making stops at the Buzz Lightyear Arcade and the incredibly detailed Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studio, he cherishes some quiet time at the much less crowded Animal Kingdom.

“But he doesn’t really care where we go. He knows it makes me happy. He’s a great guy,” Locke said.

Terry wears her Minnie Mouse ears and bow at Disney’s theme park.

Locke offers the following Disney World visit tips:

  • Avoid feeling like your family should visit from morning until the parks close. “That’s when you see true meltdowns with children,” Locke said. In the afternoon, return to the resort to swim and nap. Make evening trips back to the parks.
  • Choose value resorts. Save money and remember your family’s trip is about exploring Disney World. You’ll only be at the resort to cool off in the pool, sleep and shower.
  • “The cost for a family trip to Disney World is not for the faint of heart,” Locke said. “Plan far in advance.” Pick up Disney gift cards at Target, Sam’s Club and Costco. During your stay, those savings pay off.
  • Locke suggests leaving strollers at home. Instead, rent strollers at the park. When your family heads home, it’s one less item to squeeze into the trunk.
  • Before attending a character meal, understand that not all characters attend each meal. Find out ahead of time which characters your children want to see and where those particular characters will be present.
  • Summer visits include daily downpours. That’s an excellent time to return to the resort so your family can rest.