Baby Loves Disco turns cool Saturday night clubs into Saturday afternoon hotspots. Recently in Washington, DC, minivans rolled to up the Rock and Roll Hotel on H St. like suburban limousines. But instead of spitting out rock stars and socialites, moms hop out, wrangle a toddler or two out of a carseat and hustle into the club while dad heads off in search of a parking space. Inside, the dance party gets rocking.

A nationwide phenomenon founded in 2004, Baby Loves Disco takes over clubs in cities and converts them to family-friendly dance parties for the afternoon. Juice boxes line the bar, which is manned by a tattooed Rock and Roll Hotel staffer. There’s a “crawl space” for those who can’t quite master the dancing. And most of the clubgoers are under four feet tall.

Targeted at families for kids seven months to seven years (although they’re not checking any IDs at the front door), Baby Loves Disco gives parents an out from the eternal cycle of Mommy n’ Me and Barney. The music is mostly from the 70s and 80s—“Dancing Queen” and “I Will Survive” really get the floor hopping. The club is stocked with dance accessories like scarves, hula hoops and egg shakers, and there’s a VIP room (although everyone is welcome) with a huge spread of healthy food and where vendors offer balloon animals, manicures and face painting. An hour into the afternoon and the floor is a sea of mini tigers and fairies shaking it to “That’s the Way (Uh-Huh) I Like It.” The DJs keep the crowd on the floor moving and occasionally announce dance contests, the first of which was won by a young man named Seth, who disappeared into the throng before we could score an interview. There are also song dedications, although it’s a bit disconcerting to hear “This song is going out to ELMO!” Nothing gets the crowd rocking like the bubble machine, which elicits screams of delight and mad spasms of jumping up and down.

Most parents heard of the Sept. 13 event through word-of-mouth. Bernice Tedesco, mom to 10-month-old Theo (who was rocking a guitar-patterned onesie and a pacifier), said “a friend sent me a link, and I wanted to see what it was like.”

“It’s a good way to burn off that 2-year-old energy,” said Lisa Guiterman, mom to Ava, a blonde blur tearing up the stage. “If we had that, we could solve the energy crisis.”

The event is notable because there are more dads in attendance than one might expect. Often there are families of four—mom, a toddler, and a dad with a beer in one hand and a baby strapped to his chest. There are birthday parties, too, with the Birthday Kid decked out in a special hat, just like a bride at her bachelorette party.

While the event is certainly kid-friendly (staff members constantly circle the dance floor and pounce on dropped food and juice before anyone can slip), it still feels … well, cool. Being in a club, even in the afternoon, is clearly a treat for these mostly thirtysomething parents. While the kids dance right away, it takes awhile for the moms and dads to lighten up and shake their own groove things. But once they do, entire families are boogieing down while flashing lights and falling bubbles surround them with fun.

Baby Loves Disco has events in Baltimore on Oct. 4 and in D.C. on Oct. 11, Nov. 8 and Dec. 13. Price is $12 per walking human (non-walkers are free.) Events usually sell out; check for tickets.

By Kristen Page-Kirby

Chesapeake Family serves parents and families in Annapolis, Anne Arundel County, Baltimore, Bowie, Calvert and Prince George’s County and the Eastern Shore of Maryland.