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Now, Let's Get This Party Started!

By Andrea Sachs
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 1, 2006

For most New Year's Eve revelers, the party ends once the hangover begins. What a shame. To combat this post-ball-drop malaise, we found 10 of the biggest, busiest, most eventful celebrations going on worldwide in 2006. Below, we tell you why they made our list -- and how to keep the merrymaking going until the next flip of the calendar. So strap on that goofy hat again and get back into party mode.

Ben Franklin Tercentenary

WHAT: America's biggest overachiever, Ben Franklin, would have turned 300 on Jan. 17 -- and the party is no simple cake-and-candles affair. Ben-centric festivities will run through 2006 in various American cities and countries, but Philadelphia will host the largest bash, with more than 125 activities through April.

WHY GO: Because every time lightning strikes, you have Ben to thank for protection.

HIGHLIGHTS: The man who established the first public hospital, invented the lightning rod and helped found our nation is honored around town with museum exhibits, symphonies, lectures, demonstrations and even a ballet in which dancers interpret his inventions , including swim fins and bifocals. You can also get your fill of Franklin at " Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World ," at the National Constitution Center ($14) until April 30. The show includes hundreds of original artifacts -- including the Declaration of Independence -- and discussions with renowned biographers. On a less serious side, visitors can pair the exhibit with their best jammies Jan. 13 at Ben's Birthday Pajama Party (National Constitution Center; $40), which includes music, games and snacks. And if one party isn't enough, celebrate each year of Franklin's "life" at 300 Birthday Parties for Ben , a splash of mini-fetes held around Philly Jan. 13-15 and 17.

SLEEPS AND PACKAGES: Until April 30, more than 35 hotels are offering Ben's Birthday Hotel Package, which includes one or two nights' lodging, two tickets to the "Better World" exhibit and other amenities (based on the property). Prices vary, but in January the Penn's View Hotel is going for $176 per night double, including tastings representative of Franklin's wine cellar. Info: 800-537-7676, http://www.gophila.com/ben .

INFO: Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary, 215-557-0733, http://www.benfranklin300.org/ . Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp., 800-537-7676, http://www.gophila.com/ .

Turin Winter Olympics

WHAT: The XX Winter Games, Feb. 10-26 in Turin, Italy, and the surrounding Alps.

WHY GO: You've seen the shroud, now see the Spandex skin suits.

HIGHLIGHTS: The Italians are expected to pull out the pageantry for the opening and closing ceremonies , though show details remain hush-hush. Other big events include women's figure skating , featuring the Susan Lucci of the Olympics, gold-medal-less Michelle Kwan; the men's NHL All-Star ice hockey competition ; and Alpine skiing , with American crash-or-win star Bode Miller. And don't forget sleeper sports such as short-track speed skating -- can the home team out-speed U.S. whiz kid Apolo Anton Ohno?

For individual tickets, some events are sold out, such as the men's hockey gold-medal competition, but tickets may free up closer to the date. Otherwise, prices through CoSport, the official Olympic ticket and hotel provider (see below), range from under $50 to more than a grand.

SLEEPS AND PACKAGES: Lodging is available in and around town and the mountains. CoSport has rooms at the Eden Hotel Savigliano for $561 per night. The property is about an hour by train from Turin. The company also sells packages that include lodging, some meals, transportation and event tickets. A three-night package at the Hotel Gril Campanile in Turin, for example, includes tickets to men's Super G slalom skiing, men's speed skating and the Canada vs. Finland hockey match for $3,506.50 per person double. Info: 877-457-4647, http://cosport.com/ .

INFO: XX Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games, http://www.torino2006.org/ .

Total Solar Eclipse

WHAT: On March 29, the moon will block out the sun for a few short, crepuscular minutes -- an astronomical feat not to be repeated until August 2008. The total eclipse's path runs from Brazil across the Atlantic and into central Africa. It will then swoop over the Mediterranean, darkening Turkey, Georgia, Russia and Kazakhstan before heading back to Russia and ending at sunset over the Mongolian border.

WHY GO: The moon gets its day in the sun.

HIGHLIGHTS: The total eclipse lasts anywhere from 2 1/2 minutes to 4 minutes 7 seconds, depending on your location. (A much lengthier partial eclipse precedes and follows the total eclipse, but don't forget to wear your special half-sun glasses.) Keeping weather and safety in mind, NASA project manager Fred Espenak says the best viewing spots are in Jalu , a small desert town in Libya ; Saloum, Egypt ; and Antalya, Turkey . In these locations, the eclipse will hit midday, so the quick change from light to darkness will be even more dramatic.

SLEEPS AND PACKAGES: Antalya, aka the Turkish Riviera, has no shortage of hotels (see the Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism's Web site for options, http://goturkey.kultur.gov.tr/ ) as well as boat charters offering eclipse sightings. For Libya and Egypt, though, it's wise to go with a tour. Far Horizons (800-552-4575, http://www.farhorizons.com/ ), for example, has a solar eclipse tour in western Egypt that includes camping the night before, so guests won't miss a lick of the eclipse. The 19-day tour costs $6,995 per person double, including air from New York.

INFO: For the solar eclipse route, check out NASA Eclipse, http://sunearth.gsfc.nasa.gov/eclipse/eclipse.html .

Mozart's Birthday

WHAT: Vienna will be filled with the sound of Mozart during the Wiener Mozartjahr, which celebrates his 250th birthday from Jan. 27 through November.

WHY GO: In Vienna, Mozart is A Major.

HIGHLIGHTS: To understand different aspects of the composer, "Mozart Journeys" (Jan. 27-29) uses special events (music, film, comedy, etc.) to explore five themes in his life and work, such as "Friends and Enemies" and "Love and Death." Cost: $20 for four events, or $8 each. The journeys through Mozartland culminate with the MozartFestZelt (free), a festival in St. Stephen's Square. Also on Jan. 27-29, visit the new Mozarthaus Vienna (free), which houses Mozart's apartment, aka the Wien Museum.

The renowned Vienna Boys' Choir sings its alum's works on Jan. 26 (dress rehearsal, from $12) and 27 (from $18). The ZOOM Children's Museum (April-September; from $4) shows off Mozart's more childish side with an exhibit covering his boyish fancies (toys, games, sweets, etc.). From May to September, young musicians will strike up impromptu concerts in unlikely places -- parks, subway stations, platzes. Mozart's life hits the big screen at the coinciding 2006 film festival at Vienna's Rathausplatz (June-September; free); skip the popcorn for gastronomic delights served at the outdoor screenings. From Jan. 20 to March 5, skate to symphonic strains, plus a disco beat or two, at the Ice Dream rink at City Hall Square; go at night when the platz twinkles with lights (rentals from $4).

SLEEPS AND PACKAGES: The Vienna Convention Bureau's Web site ( http://www.vienna.info/ ) lists packages for the Mozart event. For example, a four-night package through Smolka Tours that includes hotel, tickets to a Mozart concert and other perks is starting at $750 per person double. There are also packages from $120, such as a two-nighter with a concert and admission to the Mozarthaus Vienna or the Mozart exhibit at the Albertina Museum. Austria's Salzburg Panorama Tours (011-43-662-883211, http://www.panoramatours.com/ ) organizes fully loaded packages, such as "Mozart at Its Best" (from $341), and has a luxury train ride from Vienna to Salzburg, his birthplace ($102 one way, add $43 for a rump and dumpling dinner).

INFO: Wiener Mozartjahr, 011-43-1-58-999, http://www.wienmozart2006.at/ .

Rembrandt 400

WHAT: Happy 400th, Rembrandt. Throughout 2006, the Dutch town of Leiden (the artist's birthplace) is teaming with Amsterdam (where he lived, worked, had affairs) to commemorate the 17th-century artist who showed us the chiaroscuro.

WHY GO: Art history slides don't do justice to the Baroque master.

HIGHLIGHTS: For a retrospective of Rembrandt's life, take a free walking tour of both cities; pit stops include the Latin School he attended and the house where he painted and drew for more than 20 years. The Rijksmuseum Amsterdam ($12) trots out all of its Rembrandts (paintings, drawings, self-portraits; Jan. 26-Feb. 19), as well as knockoffs for its "Really Rembrandt?" show (March 9-May 24). For twice the art, the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum offer a combo ticket ($30) for the "Rembrandt-Caravaggio" exhibit (Feb. 24-June 18); the ticket is also good for both museums' collections. During "Rembrandt, the Musical," at the Royal Carre Theatre in Amsterdam, the artist's life is set to a tune and a twirl (July 15-February 2007; from $34).

SLEEPS AND PACKAGES: The organizers of Rembrandt 400 suggest a number of packages on its Web site (see below), such as Hat Tours' week-long cycle and sail trip along the Rembrandt trail for $725 per person double. Other trips include painting workshops and a dinner inspired by 17th-century traditions. For more packages and hotel deals, check http://www.flyamsterdam.com/ , part of the Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions.

INFO: Rembrandt 400, http://www.rembrandt400.com/ . Netherlands Board of Tourism, 212-370-7360, http://www.holland.com/ .

Largest Cruise Ship

WHAT: On June 4, Royal Caribbean will displace a lot of water with the launching of the Freedom of the Seas, said to be the largest of its kind.

WHY GO: Sometimes a cruiser really wants to be the biggest fish in the sea.

HIGHLIGHTS: The 160,000-ton FOS can carry 3,600 passengers, and at 1,112 feet long it's so big it can't fit in many ports. Stats aside, its amenities (spread over 15 decks) make other ships look like dinghies. Among the attractions: a 43-foot-tall climbing wall with a center spiral , a water park with surfing , an ice skating rink and a pool with floating golf and pole jousting . The ship's centerpiece is an extravagant seven-story atrium that looks as if it were pilfered from a Roman emperor's palace. The staterooms also get the royal treatment, with flat-screen TVs and, in family-style cabins, enough space for the Brady Bunch. The 1,215-foot presidential family suite, for example, has four bedrooms and an alfresco dining area.

SLEEPS: Upon its launch, the ship will be cruising the Western Caribbean, departing from Miami. For the seven-night trip, an interior stateroom starts at $800 per person double and $949 for an ocean view. On the high end, the royal suite costs nearly seven times as much. Departures are weekly, July through December and onward. Ports of call include Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.

INFO: Royal Caribbean, 866-562-7625, http://www.royalcaribbean.com/ .

Centennial of the San Francisco Earthquake

WHAT: At 5:12 a.m. on April 18, 1906, San Francisco was shaken by one of the country's most devastating earthquakes. One hundred years later, the Bay Area commemorates the disaster (and the subsequent four-day fire) with a year of events -- though most occur around that fated day.

WHY GO: To relive the scariest seconds in Northern California's history.

HIGHLIGHTS: The Bancroft Library at the Universiy of California at Berkeley covers the whole timeline from quake to fire to restoration with its "History of Disaster" exhibit (March 1-Sept. 30; free). For survivor tales , Chinese American performer Charlie Chin will channel Hugh Liang, a teenager who lived through the quake and flames (various venues). On April 5, see the disaster interpreted through pointe shoes at the Diablo Ballet's world premiere of "Earthquake" ($25-$35). Catch the "Cartography of Ashes" flick , which will be screened on a fire station wall (free), on April 18. The centennial's crowning event is April 18 at Lotta's Fountain (intersection of Geary, Kearny and Market streets), where for 85 years survivors have met at the exact moment the quake struck. Thousands of spectators are expected to show up for the laying of a wreath, the shrieking of sirens and storytelling by the senior survivors.

SLEEPS AND TOURS: The Palace Hotel (415-512-1111, http://www.sfpalace.com/ ) has a package that includes a room on April 17, dinner and a gala, and a wake-up call for Lotta's Fountain. Cost is $1,500 per couple. For other stays at quake-restored hotels, check out Hotel Boheme (415-433-9111, http://www.hotelboheme.com/ ; from $149) and the Fairmont (415-772-5000, http://www.fairmont.com/sanfrancisco ), which has a Walk Through Time package (from $229) that includes a self-guided tour of the hotel.

INFO: 1906 Earthquake Centennial Alliance, 415-427-8142, http://1906centennial.org/ .

European Cultural Capital for 2006

WHAT: Patras, on the coast of the Greek region of Peloponnesus, takes a turn wearing the crown as the year's European Capital of Culture.

WHY GO: Greece and culture go as well together as olives and oil.

HIGHLIGHTS: The opening days (Jan. 10-21) are a crash course in culture, with the Gogmagogs, a theater troupe that blends music, edgy theater and flamboyant costumes; an exhibit that looks back at 20 years of ECC winners ; and a multimedia experience that lets visitors " time travel" to Patras's past . During Carnival Days (Jan. 21-March 1), catch "Angels From the Sky," a light-as-air act with a bit of Barnum & Bailey, or hear the Viennese Vegetable Orchestra play tunes on instruments last seen in your dinner salad. If you're a mime-aphobe, be warned: From Jan. 21 to April 5, the Unethical Poetry troupe of wily performers will heckle passersby in the city center. From May 19 to June 4, the classics get a modern makeover, including Aeschylus' "Agamemnon," Sophocles' "Oedipus Rex" and other Western Civ standards. For "Songs of Wine and Love" (June 27-Sept. 15), the intoxicating poems of Sappho, Alkaois and others are expressed through music and dance. Photographers Anna Papoulia and Nelly Tragousti snap Patrasian children at play , contrasting their pretend world with reality (Dec. 1-28).

Note: Dates may change. Ticket prices and ordering, along with event locations, will soon be available on Patras's Web site (see below).

SLEEPS AND PACKAGES: To attend the first month of activities, 11th Hour Vacations (888-740-1998, http://www.11thhourvacations.com/ ) has week-long rentals in Patras from $499 ( arriving Jan. 14 and 21). Currently, Homeric Tours' Greek trips only drive through Patras en route to Delphi from Olympia, but the company plans to offer Patras cultural tours and will have details in mid-January. Info: 800-223-5570, http://homerictours.com/ .

INFO: Patras European Capital of Culture, http://patras2006.gr/en .

Jamestown 2007

WHAT: Although Jamestown, Va., doesn't turn the big Four-O-O until May 2007, the 18-month-long bash revs up in 2006 with some signature events around the East Coast.

WHY GO: Without the Jamestown settlers, we might've been forced to care even more about Charles and Camilla.

HIGHLIGHTS: During the week of May 21, the Godspeed will kick off Jamestown 2007 with its full-sail departure from Jamestown Settlement; the ship will then embark on a goodwill tour of the Eastern Seaboard. To board the re-created settlers' boat as well as her sister ships (the Susan Constant and the Discovery), visit the settlement, an hour's drive east of Richmond; the $11.75 ticket also includes living-history museums (888-593-4682, http://www.historyisfun.org/ ). From Memorial Day weekend through July 30, the Godspeed will dock in, among other ports, Alexandria, Baltimore and Philadelphia. To celebrate its arrival, each town will hold a free dock party that includes music composed for the anniversary, ship tours, exhibits and children's activities (check the Web site below for dates).

Twenty-five miles from Jamestown, Yorktown will salute its 1781 Revolutionary War victory with a four-day festival on Oct. 19-22. For the 225th, the town will have reenactors performing 18th-century military techniques, a tall ship display, fireworks, a military parade and band concerts. While there, stroll the newly constructed Riverwalk Landing, lined with shops and restaurants. And if you are planning way in advance, don't forget to pencil in the blowout America's Anniversary Weekend May 11-13, 2007, in Jamestown.

SLEEPS AND PACKAGES: America's Historic Triangle package includes two, three or four nights' accommodations at more than 70 properties, plus a pass that offers unlimited visits to five attractions, including the Jamestown Settlement and Colonial Williamsburg. For two, tickets are $166, and hotels range from $79 a night (Best Western, Days Inn, etc.) to $500 (Williamsburg Inn, Williamsburg Lodge, etc.). A three-night package in May for two adults runs $432 to $565, for example. Info: 800-211-7165, http://www.historictriangle.com/ .

INFO: Jamestown 2007, 757-253-4659, http://www.jamestown2007.org/ . 225th Anniversary of the Siege of Yorktown , http://www.siegeofyorktown.org/ .

FIFA World Cup

WHAT: From June 9 to July 9, 32 soccer teams from around the world will stream into a dozen German cities, kicking and ball-heading their way to their final gooooalllll -- the World Cup trophy.

WHY GO: Because across the Atlantic, soccer is a really big deal.

HIGHLIGHTS: Before the players' cleats hit the field, Berlin's Olympic Stadium will host Gala Berlin on June 7, a spectacle with a concert by Peter Gabriel, costumed performers, music, dancing, a light show and fireworks (tickets from $118). For the 64 matches (tickets from $41), the 12 host cities will organize cultural programs . Among them: Kaiserslautern will build a replica of the Fritz Walter Stadion using 450,000 Legos ; Nuremberg will unveil the world's largest lawn , based on a Duerer painting; and Stuttgart's theater festival will perform plays with a kick (June 16-July 10; http://www.theaterderwelt.de/ ; from $7). The sport will get some TV face time at the Berlin Film Museum exhibit " Goal! Football and Television" ( http://www.filmmuseum-berlin.de/ ; $7). The final match will be at Berlin's Olympic Stadium, but if you can't afford a ticket (from $141), large outdoor screens will be installed outside the arenas for broke fans.

SLEEPS AND PACKAGES: The German National Tourist Office (800-651-7010, http://www.cometogermany.com/ ) offers packages applicable during the World Cup. For example, pay $243 for a three-night package at the MCE Marina Camp Elbe in Lutherstadt Wittenberg, including breakfast and dinner. For fans who want to follow their team, Anthony Travel (800-736-6377, http://www.anthonytravel.com/ ) has a flexible package that includes airfare from D.C., 10 nights of hotel vouchers and a train pass for $2,800 per person double.

INFO: FIFA World Cup, http://fifaworldcup.yahoo.com/06/en/index.html .

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