Nature-based adaptation planning is a challenging endeavor, not least because it requires transdisciplinary approaches to unite different actors’ efforts and capacities. However, empirical knowledge on associated governance processes is scarce and fragmented. Against this background, this paper examines the integration of nature-based approaches for climate change adaptation into municipalities’ daily planning practices and associated governance. A city-to-city learning lab was established to systematically analyze selected urban development projects step-by-step, from the initial idea, to comprehensive and detailed planning, procurement, implementation, maintenance and follow-up. The results show the numerous constraints municipal staff face and how they use targeted strategies to overcome them and tap into existing drivers. We identify five, complementary strategies: i) targeted stakeholder collaboration; ii) strategic citizen involvement; iii) outsourcing; iv) the alteration of internal working structures; and v) concealed science–policy integration. Importantly, these strategies reveal an increasing need for relational approaches that, in turn, require individuals to develop the cognitive/emotional capacity to establish trust, communicate inclusively and promote social learning, while at the same time dealing with an increasingly complex and uncertain working environment. We conclude that tapping into the potential of nature-based solutions for climate adaptation governance requires more financial and human resources, and capacity development to support personal development, systematic mainstreaming and, ultimately, more sustainable development.