Nightlife is one of New York City's main attractions, and it’s no wonder: the city is home to cheap happy hours, late-night restaurants and bars that hop until 4am. Manhattan may be the go-to party borough, but anyone seeking NYC thrills with some unique charm should head over to Queens.

Just a subway ride away from Manhattan, this energetic borough offers an array of drinking, dining and entertainment options – and won’t be as hard on your wallet. Mix and match the recommendations below to create your own perfect Queens night out.

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The beer garden at Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden draws a happy hour crowd even on chilly days © Robert Balkovich / Lonely Planet

Happy hour

If you like to get started early, the pubs, cocktail bars, beer halls and lounges in Queens are ready with enticing after-work specials. Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden in Astoria has a giant patio area that makes it the perfect place to meet in the spring and summer, but the half-priced beer at happy hour makes it worth hitting up year-round. The interior and patio both have a classic beer hall aesthetic, with Czech, Slovak and American flags hung proudly from the fortress-like walls. Inside, you can catch sports and enjoy some classic Slavic cuisine with your drink.

Looking for a less conventional happy hour? Visit The COOP in Flushing. This Korean fusion spot has a great beer, sake and wine selection, but specializes in custom-made cocktails such as a lychee cosmopolitan. At happy hour you'll find great deals on oysters and small-plate fare: kimchi egg rolls, fried chicken gizzards and their famous hot wings, which add a uniquely Korean flavor to the bar food classic. The ambiance at The COOP is tastefully modern, with dim lighting and flashes of neon – perfect to get you in the mood for a long night out.

Fueling up

When it's time for some sustenance, you'll be glad to be in Queens. The Astoria neighborhood has some of the best Greek food this side of Athens, and few restaurants are quite as revered as Taverna Kyclades. Its popularity means that there is usually a long wait for a table. Even in the winter you'll find a crowd outside the restaurant, but the wait is part of the fun. The staff passes out glasses of wine, and the array of patrons make for pleasant company. Once you get in, it's no surprise what draws so many people. Kyclades means ‘islands’ in Greek, and their food reflects that relaxed, unfussy island lifestyle. Whole, simply seasoned baked fish, grilled octopus, fried eggplant with garlic sauce – everything is done to perfection. Of course, you'll want to make sure to add a bottle or two of Greek wine.

On the other side of Queens is Asian Jewels. During the day, this behemoth of a restaurant is known for its dim sum service, and at night they offer a full menu of Cantonese delights. The restaurant's spacious, open interior is filled with large tables that either seat extended families, or mix-and-match smaller parties. The vast and varied menu features dishes familiar to most, like fried rice and sweet-and-sour pork, as well as traditional Cantonese dishes, such as beef with bamboo shoots and sliced cold jellyfish.

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The creative drinks at Sek'end Sun make for a perfect post-dinner treat © Robert Balkovich / Lonely Planet

After-dinner cocktails

Cocktail culture thrives in Queens, even in the outer reaches of the borough. If you enjoy a few drinks after dinner, there are plenty of exciting options. Dutch Kills in Long Island City is one of the best. A speakeasy-style joint located in an unassuming warehouse building, its industrial facade opens up into a dimly lit den of liquor. The decor is an intriguing mish-mash of bygone eras, with saloon-style wooden booths and bartenders in mid-century tiki-couture. Most importantly, the drink menu is extensive and the bartenders skilled.

Further north in Astoria is Sek'end Sun, a restaurant with a large bar that specializes in crisp drinks that match its airy design. The ‘Infante’ – tequila, lime, orgeat syrup and nutmeg – is pretty to look at and a joy to drink, while the cachaça and ancho pepper based ‘Brazilian Bikini’ has a hard kick with a smooth finish. The specialty drinks at Sek'end Sun are $10 a pop, which is less expensive than most cocktail bars, and the creative menu makes it a great location for anyone who believes that variety is the spice of life.

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The Real KTV is the karaoke bar of your dreams © Robert Balkovich / Lonely Planet

Lively late-night entertainment

After a few civilized cocktails, it's time to turn up the volume. Anyone in the mood for strong drinks, dancing and drag queens should head over to Icon Bar in Astoria. This gay bar provides all of the fun and atmosphere of similar Manhattan establishments, but has a friendlier vibe. It's the type of place where you can walk in alone and leave with a group of new friends.

If you're in the mood for a more structured late-night activity, take yourself to The Real KTV, located in the New World Mall in Flushing (newworldmallny.com), for a karaoke experience that is hard to top. This is an authentically Chinese spot that caters to all. The lighting and furniture are delightfully ostentatious, the drinks are strong and arrive quickly and the private rooms come with standing mics that will help even the most tentative performer let loose.

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Dumplings at Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao are the perfect way to soak up the night © Robert Balkovich / Lonely Planet

And for hangover prevention . . .

You don't want to head home on an empty belly, so after the party is over head over to Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao in Flushing for gooey soup dumplings and a plate of street noodles, available until 1am. Another option for excellent late-night eats is Jerusalem Pita House in Astoria, which serves hot, savory gyros until 3am weekdays and 4am on weekends. Either will end your night in Queens on a satisfying note.

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