WHY The city in which Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart spent the last 10 years of his life commemorates his 250th birthday with music, music, and more music. Mozart 2006 kicks off on January 8, when tenor Plácido Domingo leads an all-star cast in an inaugural concert at the Theater an der Wien. The venerable Vienna State Opera follows up with four Mozart masterworks including The Marriage of Figaro (January 2328). A more intimate perspective on the composer can be found at the Mozarthaus Vienna, a museum dedicated to his life and art that's opening January 27.
HOW www.wienmozart2006.at. Grand Hotel Wien, 9 Kärntner Ring; 43-1/515-800; www.grandhotelwien.com; doubles from $298.
WHERE Los Angeles
WHY In February, Annette Bening takes on the role of Madame Ranyevskaya, the matriarch of an aristocratic Russian family who struggles to hold on to a debt-ridden ancestral estate, in The Cherry Orchard (Feb. 12March 19) at the Mark Taper Forum. Sean Mathias, who revived The Elephant Man on Broadway, stages Chekhov's drama about the fragility of human nature in the face of change. For more celebrity sightings, call it a night at the Hollywood Roosevelt.
How 213/628-2772; www.centertheatregroup.org. Hollywood Roosevelt, 7000 Hollywood Blvd.; 800/950-7667; www.hollywoodroosevelt.com; doubles from $139.
WHERE Cologne, Germany
WHY The Old Town glows during the holidays, when the Christmas Market encircles a 66-foot tree, dwarfed only by the 13th-century cathedral. Warm up with hot mulled wine, then wander into the new Peter Zumthordesigned Kolumba museum, where the ancient meets the modern: crucifixes and reliquaries share space with the works of Bauhaus designer and painter Andor Weininger.
HOW www.stadt-koeln.de. InterContinental Cologne, 1 Pipinstrasse; 888/ 303-1758; www.ichotelsgroup.com=; doubles from $161.
WHY Benjamin Franklin turns the big 3-0-0 on January 17, sending a jolt of electricity throughout the city. The yearlong celebration begins with "Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World" at the National Constitution Center, an exhibition of more than 250 artifacts—from the polymath's chess set to re-creations of his most famous experiments (Dec. 15April 30). Then, on January 1, the Franklin Institute Science Museum raises the curtain on "Sparks!", an interactive show complete with real lightning bolts.
How 215/557-0733; www.benfranklin300.org; Rittenhouse Hotel, 210 W. Rittenhouse Square; 800/635-1042 or 215/546-9000; www.rittenhousehotel.com; doubles from $265.
WHY If theatrical snowflakes tickle your fancy but the Nutcracker isn't the answer, get a ticket to Matthew Bourne's staged rendition of Edward Scissorhands, playing at the Sadler's Wells Theatre (Nov. 22Feb. 5). The British choreographer re-interprets Tim Burton's Gothic film as a ballet, creating a dark winter fantasy as the oddball hero (with scissors for hands and pure innocence for a heart) shears shrubs, hairdos, and blocks of ice into fantastical objets d'art.
How Rosebery Ave.; 44-207/863-8198; www.sadlerswells.com. Malmaison London, Charterhouse Square; 44-207/012-3700; www.malmaisonlondon.com; doubles from $340.
Written by Aaron Barker, Jennifer V. Cole, Amy Farley, Hillary Geronemus, Robert Greskovic, Jaime Gross, Darrell Hartman, Farhad Heydari, Amanda Jones, Xander Kaplan, Julia Klein, Peter Jon Lindberg, Francine Maroukian, Mario Mercado, Clark Mitchell, and Clara Ogden.