That’s what we discovered when we went out to explore Lower Manhattan with a volunteer from Big Apple Greeters ( Because greeters are not professional tour guides, these are called “visits” rather than “tours,” but what a great way to experience a New York Neighborhood—with a bonafide New Yorker who knows and loves her city—including where to eat lunch in Chinatown for just $6. You can ask for a Greeter to show you a specific neighborhood (next time I want to go to Harlem) or to the kids in your group. Those with special challenges are welcome too.

Since New York started this program in 1992, the Big Apple Greeters have squired around 95,000 visitors from around the world and have a cadre of more than 300 Greeters who range from 20-somethings to those in their eighties who share a passion for New York that they want to pass on to you.  The service is free, though you can make a (deductible) contribution if you choose because the organization is in dire financial straits at the moment, seeking $300,000 to be able to continue past the fall.

Not only is this a terrific introduction to New York ( but the program has spurred others around the world—everywhere from Chicago and Houston to Toronto, Melbourne, Buenos Aires, Paris and Belgrade. (For a complete list, visit I don’t know why every city doesn’t have one!