On the show

5 best sites and apps to get you through the weekend

Oct. 11, 2013 at 7:39 AM ET

Video: TODAY contributor and digital lifestyle expert Mario Armstrong shares an app that helps you track down gorgeous fall foliage in your area, as well as revealing ways to look up easy recipes to make with your kids and find tickets to events near you.

Fall is here! The leaves are turning and the air is crisp. Don’t you want to just get outside and do something fun? Well I have some great apps and sites to give you ideas of what to do, that I think you will absolutely love!

TrailLink

I can’t think of a better way to spend a day with my family at this time of year than to find an awesome bike trail and go for a ride! This site is provided by Rails-To-Trails Conservancy, a non-profit whose mission is to create nationwide trails from former railroad lines. The site allows you to to find trails by state: Once you choose your state, Trail Link provides trail maps, descriptions, photos and reviews so you can check out your route. It even provides information on trails that are wheelchair accessible, notes on how to access the trail, as well as the most convenient parking facilities. 

You don’t even have to stick to bike rides; you can also search the site based on the type of activity you are interested in doing. If you like to bird watch you can click on “Birding Trails,” or, if you love to go horseback riding or snowmobiling, you can click on those activities and many others to find great places in your area. They are getting ready to launch an iPhone app in November, and are hoping to launch an Android app by next summer.

Foliage Leaf Peepr App

When choosing which trail you want to use for your bike ride this fall weekend, wouldn’t it be great to choose one with the most beautifully colored leaves? That is where Foliage Leaf Peepr comes in. This a fun app to use for a beautiful fall day! The app uses GPS to locate where you are, and then shows you a color coded map to give you an idea of where the best colors are around you. Those colors are based on reports from other Peepers! You too can become a Peeper by reporting what colors you see around you. You can use the sliding scale provided to show whether foliage is anywhere from "green" to "turning" to "peak" or even "gone." You can even add your own photos, make comments, and rate the foliage status in your area. It is a great way to be sure you will get to check out a gorgeous landscape.

Yummly

After a big day of apple picking at the apple orchard, a fun activity for the whole family is to find some delicious recipes to use up the carload of apples you have hauled home. Yummly is a great cooking app for Apple devices that helps you discover great recipes personalized to your tastes. You can find recipe recommendations based on diet, allergies and ingredients in your Taste Preferences, and the app even lets you organize and save your favorite recipes. The kids can have fun with it too! Make cooking fun for them at an early age by letting them search through the app and choose whatever recipe they like. What also makes cooking apps like Yummly super convenient is that you don’t have to go home and then go back out again to the store. You can search the app (in this case on your way home from the apple orchard), choose your recipe, and stop by the store on the way home.  

(I don’t know if you know this about me, but I am a HUGE healthy/vegan dessert baker and I love making snacks that can be nutritious and delicious. See the bottom of this article for my own simple, healthy and delicious Caramel Apple recipe!)

Seatgeek

If you are looking for a fun way to spend the afternoon or evening and you love live entertainment, then this is a great app and site for you! Seatgeek is a site and an iOS app that aggregates tickets from dozens of resale sites into a one-stop ticket shop just for you! You create an account and state what bands you are into and what sports teams you support, as well as the town where you are located. Seatgeek will then send you alerts when they come across a show or a game that might interest you. It has an interactive map which can show you a 3D view of exactly where you will be sitting in the venue so you no longer have to be shocked or disappointed when you arrive to your seats. I hate when I get stuck behind a column or pole!

The site also has a system called Deal Score that will show you the best bargains for that spefici event. All shipping and seller fees are included in the ticket price so you don’t have to worry about how much it will cost on top of the issued price. It is really making ticket shopping a breeze.

Vayable.com

Vayable.com is a great site for someone wanting to escape. They match your travel preferences with local experts that they call “Insiders.” These “Insiders” not only connect with you online to help you set everything up, they can actually meet you in the city of choice and personally show you around. The experiences can range from “off the beaten path” attractions like street art tours to eating like a local. The way to get started is to simply create your account, answer a few questions about where you want to go and what you are looking forward to doing, and the site matches you with a Vayable-certified insider, which takes about 12 hours. I know it’s kind of a different way to travel, but what a great way to get a real inside look at a city.

As promised, here is my fantastic Caramel Apple recipe. Enjoy!

Mario's healthy caramel apple treats!

This should cover about 5 caramel apples

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup vanilla flavored almond milk
  • 1/2 cup vegan, gluten-free butter, I use Earth Balance Organic Whipped Buttery Spread
  • 1/2 cup cane sugar
  • 1 tsp. Madhava Organic Agave Nectar Amber
  • 2 tbsp. Shady Maple Farms Organic Grade B Maple Syrup
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 5 Tree branches or just use popsicle sticks

Directions:

  • Clean off apples and make sure they are dry
  • Insert tree branches for fun or popsicle sticks into the top of the apples
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (this will keep the caramel from sticking)
  • In a medium sized pot over medium heat, add vanilla almond milk, butter substitute, maple syrup, agave nectar, sugar and sea salt. As ingredients combine, begin stirring and turn the heat up and bring to a boil and yes keep stirring. You'll be doing quite a bit of stirring.
  • Continue boiling the ingredients and stir caramel until the temperature reaches 240 degrees. This is my favorite part of the recipe because as you boil, your kitchen ends up smelling like a candy factory.
  • Once you reach the temperature, remove from heat and add vanilla extract.
  • Here's where you have to move quick because the caramel will harden. To coat the apples, hold the stick and place apple over the pot. To get the caramel on the apple, carefully spoon over caramel (it's very hot, so be careful), turning the apple to get all sides covered. Place back on the parchment paper.
  • Let them cool and the caramel will become firm and hold its shape.

Digital Lifestyle Expert Mario Armstrong is an Emmy Award Winning TV Host, Media Personality and Technology Contributor to TODAY. Read more from Mario at marioarmstrong.com and follow him on Twitter @marioarmstrong and on Facebook.

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