Only a few years ago, the word was understood (if it was used at all) to mean chicken wings or jalapeño poppers or nachos. That time is gone forever. As even the proudest Luddite now knows, an “app” is something you download onto your handheld device or tablet, a helpful and fun piece of software that lets you check the weather or listen to the radio or read the paper or slingshot angry birds at irritating pigs. Apps, especially smartphone apps, appeal to our problem-solving natures. Want to translate a road sign, figure out the name of the song playing in a waiting room, or see where the nearest clean public restroom is? There’s an app for that.
With this issue, we’re rolling out two new apps, both of them the products of many months of research and development. The challenge and opportunity for all magazines today is to take a sensibility that was born (and still lives on) in print and transmit it onto the multiple platforms of the digital world. These two new TEXAS MONTHLY apps do exactly that. They are just as much a part of the magazine as, well, the magazine, so before I go on and on about how miraculous they are or what they’ll help you do, let’s start with the magazine. After all, that’s where the apps began too.
In your hands you hold (or on one of your screens you are preparing to read) yet another issue of TEXAS MONTHLY devoted to exploring the great outdoors. Over the years we’ve told you what rivers to paddle, what swimming holes to jump into, what beaches to comb, what mountains to climb, what lakes to fish, what trails to hike and bike, and what to do when you find yourself in Big Bend, miles from anything at all. This month, we’ve focused on the state parks system (“Into the Wild,”). From Texas’s 93 state parks, natural areas, and historic sites, covering more than half a million acres, the intrepid and discerning Charlie Llewellin picked the ten best trips—which parks you should go to, where you should camp, which activities you should fill (not too much of) your day with, and what to look for when you pile into the car with your kids and drive to the nearest town.
Issues like this one have a longer-than-average life span. Readers keep them in the car for years after the newsstand dates. Back when we began talking about apps, one of the first things we thought of was these cars full of old magazines. There should be an app for that! Thus was born the TEXAS MONTHLY Outdoor Guide, a nifty program that puts our decades of experience traveling around Texas right into your pocket. The app, available now in the iTunes Store (and coming very soon to Android Market), is chock-full of photos, trail maps, excellent writing, essential info, and extremely useful tips on everything from whom to take surfing lessons from on South Padre to where to find the best views in the Guadalupe Mountains. It’s all searchable by GPS, of course, so that this summer you’ll be able to keep a constant eye on, among other things, exactly how far you are from the nearest great swimming hole—and, once you’re there, where to park in the shade, where to get a good taco nearby, and on and on.
The other app is our long-awaited BBQ Finder, which officially launches on June 8 (the same day that VIP tickets to our second annual BBQ Festival go on sale; clear the day!). We’ve been teasing readers with the promise of this app since last fall, but fans of good brisket should know better than anyone that you can’t rush perfection. The BBQ Finder, which makes a nice companion to the Outdoor Guide, will do much more than just locate the nearest smoked sausage or pork rib. It’s also loaded with social features that will connect enthusiasts, allow for some friendly competition, and let even the most casual user tap into the great barbecue hive mind, or as I like to call it, the hive stomach. (For more information on both apps, go to texasmonthly.com/app.)
These apps are only the beginning (in this regard, the old sense of the word is appropriate). For nearly forty years, TEXAS MONTHLY has guided readers to the best that Texas has to offer. Now we can do that in more ways than ever. App, app, and away.