In the Northern Hemisphere, the Milky way galaxy is visible from March to November. Depending on the time of year, you can see it as soon as dusk, and as late as dawn. At the beginning of March, it begins to creep out very late around 4 am. As the months progress and we make our way into summer, you can see it by 10 pm. The best time to view it is during a new moon because the less light, the more visible the galaxy is. That is why you would not be able to see it in a big city that is full of lights. The further away from light pollution, the better, and more visible the milky way galaxy, and just the starts in general will be.
The milky way galaxy can be seen with the naked eye, and if you have never seen it before, I highly suggest you go out and experience it! On a warm summer night, drive out into the country, or the outskirts of your town where there isn't much light pollution, and check it out for yourself. It is an amazing sight to see and recommend everyone checks it out at least once in their life!
Here is a gallery of some of my favorite milky way photos I've taken over the last couple years. Locations include Santa Barbara, Santa Ynez, Lompoc, and Yosemite National Park.