In an area with minimal/no light pollution, the Milky Way is about as hard to miss as the ground. It appears as a giant (10+ degree wide) ragged band with various dark spots and veins. At the right times of year/night, you can see it stretching from horizon to horizon.
But in most towns, it's just a faint bit of paleness near the zenith. And completely invisible in even a small city.
"Pascal is Pascal is Pascal is dog meat." -- M. Devine and P. Larson, Computer Science 340