In the face of global urbanisation and climate change, scientists are increasingly using cities to experiment with more resilient forms of urban infrastructure. Experimentation represents the practical dimension of adaptation; it is what happens in practice when policymakers, researchers, businesses and communities are charged with finding new paths. This paper traces one particular lineage of experimentation to resilience ecology, which rejects the possibility of external control over a system, casting planning and administrative functions, and even scientists themselves, as part of a Social-Ecological System. Using insights from political ecology, laboratory studies and urban studies, the paper explores how ecologists involved with the Long Term Ecological Research Programme in the USA are embedding adaptive experiments into urban governance. Discussion focuses on the role of place in adaptive science, considering the political implications of ecologising urban governance and rendering it experimental.