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Cologne as a home base - Itinerary suggestions?

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My group (6-9 adults in our early 30s) is planning a trip to Europe in July 2011. Paris is our 1st stop (4 nights) and Amsterdam is our last stop (4 nights). We are leaning towards Cologne or Koblenz as our home base in Western Germany (4 nights). Cologne seems better for a group of young adutls (restaurants and shops open later, nightlife).
Looking for thoughts about the choice of Cologne.
Day trips from Cologne?
Can we get to Bacharach, St. Goar, Koblenz, other Rhine sites, from Cologne?
What would be a good place to stop for a few hours on the way from Paris to Cologne?
From Cologne to Amsterdam?
As always, thank you for your help.

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