There are numerous pathways through which influenza A can enter a host cell to begin infection. All these entry paths share one feature, which is the initial interaction of the virus with glycoproteins populating cell surfaces. These glycans are abundant and their presentation is difficult to control precluding a detailed understanding of influenza spreading. By remodeling the cell surface with well-defined mimetics of native glycoproteins we gain control over the molecular interactions between the cell surface and the influenza virus. This allows us to control the point and time of viral entry enabling quantitative biophysical analysis of events during influenza entry and spreading throughout tissues and whole organisms.