The world number one was taken on a whirlwind tour of Manhattan Tuesday, showing off his new trophy to screaming fans in Times Square and on Fifth Avenue and being whisked around the television studios, before preparing to fly back home.
The 24-year-old was all smiles as he waved to the crowds then spoke with media after celebrating his 6-4 5-7 6-4 6-2 win over Novak Djokovic in Monday night's rain-delayed final at Flushing Meadows.
"Yeah, it's unbelievable for me. It's more than I ever dreamed about, that I ever thought I can do," he told Reuters.
"It's just an amazing feeling and I'm very happy to have my first U.S. Open in my hands now."
Nadal was dressed casually in denim jeans and a navy blue polo shirt and was looking remarkably fresh after managing just a few hours sleep from the night before because of all his media commitments after the final.
He said he had celebrated his victory by having a quiet meal with his family, including his coach and uncle Toni who had convinced him to focus on tennis.
"It was one of my frustrations when I was a kid," Nadal said. "I love the football, it was my passion. I would have loved to play football, but it's impossible to do everything.
"In football, I wasn't really good, I was a really normal player."
His achievement, at just 24, immediately reignited the debate about who is the greatest player of all but Nadal, wincing every time the subject is mentioned, remained reluctant to talk about it.
Federer won the U.S. Open five times in a row from 2004-2008 and Nadal, who was once considered a clay-court specialist, said he was happy just to win once on the hardcourts at Flushing Meadows.
"I always saw this tournament as very far for me," he said.
"This tournament wasn't the best ... and that's very emotional for me."
(Writing by Julian Linden; Editing by Frank Pingue)