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An inside-out look at New York

From botanic gardens to art exhibitions, the Big Apple is ripe with free attractions, activities and services. Here are three popular ways to enjoy your visit.

THE RESIDENT'S EYE: New York shows its personal side through the Big Apple Greeter program. Volunteers escort visitors on a three- to four-hour walk in a neighborhood of their choice in Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Harlem or Queens. Besides Central Park, the Empire State Building and other traditional attractions, visitors can opt to explore ethnically rich areas such as the Greek neighborhood of Astoria or the Italian community of Arthur Avenue.

One of the program's 500 volunteers is matched with each visitor, family or small group of friends, based on interests, neighborhood and language requested (more than 40 languages are spoken).

Contact Big Apple Greeter, 1 Centre Street, New York; (212) 669-2896, with as much advance notice as possible.

BE ON TV: Now's your chance to see what happens in the studio when a TV program is being aired or taped. Among the many shows available are The Late Show with David Letterman, Live with Regis and Kathie Lee, Ricki Lake, Sally Jessy Raphael and Saturday Night Live.

Most shows issue standby tickets the day of the show. To ensure a seat, you need to reserve a ticket. Depending on the program, requests must be made 1-12 months in advance. Minimum-age requirements apply.

After you decide which show you want to attend, call the city's public information line at (800) NYC-VISIT to obtain that program's phone number. Then call the program for specific instructions on how to reserve a seat or how to obtain a standby ticket.

HERITAGE TRAIL: Discover Lower Manhattan's monuments and historic milestones at your own pace by following one of four Heritage Trails. The orange trail focuses on financial matters as it leads walkers to the American Stock Exchange, World Trade Center and World Financial Center. Among the red trail's key sites are Printing House Square, the Brooklyn Bridge, the African Burial Ground and the Commons Historic District.

The blue trail stretches from the Federal Reserve Bank to South Street Seaport Historic District. Wall Street, historic districts, museums and Battery Park highlight the extensive green trail.

All four trails start within two blocks of the Heritage Trails Hub & Visitor Information Center (Federal Hall, 26 Wall St., call toll-free (888) 4-TRAILS and press option 8, or (212) 269-1500), which provides trail maps.

For more information about the city, contact the New York Convention & Visitors Bureau Inc., Two Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019; (800) NYC-VISIT.

Nancy Muenker is a freelance writer living in Denver.

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