August is upon us, the month when millions of Americans put up out-of-office messages, pile the kids and the dog into the car, and speed off to recharge their batteries.

But where should they go? Which state is best for vacationing? More Americans visit national parks in California than in any other state —35 million in 2010, according to the Census Bureau. Overseas visitors favor New York state, the bureau reports. Alaska has more parkland than any other state, and Rhode Island attracts the most visitors per acre of park space (it has only five acres, though).

From a public policy perspective, however, no state does a better job attracting visitors than Indiana. That’s because its tourism office gets a better return on its investment than any other state.

In fiscal year 2012-2013, Visit Indiana had $2.3 million to spend marketing the state, according to the U.S. Travel Association. That year, Indiana took in more than $8.3 billion in tourism revenue, the Census Bureau said. That means every tax dollar spent on marketing and promotion yielded $3,635 in economic activity. The Census Bureau defines tourism revenue as “U.S. spending on domestic overnight trips and day trips of 50 miles or more, one way, away from home.”

Of course Indiana’s tourism office doesn’t deserve all the credit. Plenty of visitors come for the Indianapolis 500; or Indiana Dunes State Park, on the shores of Lake Michigan; or the International Circus Hall of Fame in Peru, just north of Kokomo.

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